The last PFTC course was held in Peru March 2020, and unfortunately cut short (and for many, extended far beyond planning) due to the emerging Covid-19 outbreak. You can read more about that here, here and here.
Whilst we had to leave our field sites early, we still managed to collect most of our planned data. In addition to learning about plant functional traits, we took away many lessons on the topic of open science and its integration in field courses, which is an important red thread in the PFTC philosophy. These lessons are now published in Ecology and Evolution, in our paper ‘Next‐generation field courses: Integrating Open Science and online learning‘. In the article, we outline practical recommendations for integrating Open Science practices into field courses to equip early career researchers with the skills and competences they need to succeed in the future. Project-based field courses are a well-established element in providing hands-on training for ECRs in the fields of Ecology and Evolution, but also other scientific disciplines. Given a rising Open Science movement and growing online toolsets, field courses should integrate these elements to increase participants’ learning outcomes and benefit the wider community. By representing the complete scientific workflow, field courses provide an ideal arena to teach Open Science implementation in Higher Education. If used appropriately, considering diversity of participants, online tools can facilitate both teaching and application of Open Science elements. Integrating these elements into field courses will help to provide the next generation of researchers with crucial skills for an increasingly Open Science-focused future and facilitate collaborative, transparent and reproducible research. This group effort was led by Sonya Geange, Jonathan von Oppen and Tanya Strydom with Mickey Boakye, Tasha-Leigh Gauthier, Ragnhild Gya, Aud Halbritter, Laura Jessup, Sara Middleton, Jocelyn Navarro, Maria Elisa Pierfederici, Julia Chacón-Labella, Sehoya Cotner, William Farfan-Rios, Brian Maitner, Sean Michaletz, Richard Telford, Brian Enquist, and Vigdis Vandvik.
What is more, dealing with this pandemic and continuing the course in a modified format, taught us many lessons way beyond the scope of the course. In a large group effort led by course participants, we now published a paper on academic practice in Ecology and Evolution, called: ‘From a crisis to an opportunity: Eight insights for doing science in the COVID‐19 era and beyond‘. In this paper, we highlight eight insights for how innovative, collaborative and often Open Science driven developments that have arisen from the COVID-19 crisis can form a blueprint for a community reinvention in academia. Our insights include personal approaches to managing our new reality, maintaining capacity to focus and resilience in our projects, and a variety of tools that facilitate remote collaboration. We also highlight how, at a community level, we can take advantage of online communication platforms for gaining accessibility to conferences and meetings, and for maintaining research networks and community engagement while promoting a more diverse and inclusive community. COVID-19 may have forced us to change the way we work. but we believe the pandemic has also provided us with several novel ways of conducting international Science. Overall, we are confident that these practices can support a more inclusive and kinder scientific culture for the longer term. This was a group effort lead by Julia Chacón-Labella and Sonya Geange and involving Mickey Boakye, Brian Enquist, William Farfan-Rios, Ragnhild Gya, Aud Halbritter, Sara Middleton, Jonathan von Oppen, Samuel Pastor-Ploskonka, Tanya Strydom, and Vigdis Vandvik.
We are so happy and proud to see our participants showing such amazing initiative and drive to write these fantastic papers and get them out. We hope you give them a read. Enjoy!