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Telling the Whole Tale of science

Speed read
  • Print articles sterilize science articles. 
  • New era of computationally-enabled science calls for new way to tell the story.
  • NSF-funded project creates living articles for facile replication.

To tell the full story of modern science, old methods just don’t cut it. Gone are the days of expecting a hard copy of a journal article to convey the complexities and richness of scientific discovery. Big data and distributed computing require an online, fluid delivery model to match – and to tell the whole tale.

That’s the thrust of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Whole Tale project. This five-year project from the NSF’s Data Infrastructure Building Blocks initiative seeks to reinvent how scientific knowledge is created, shared, and discovered. Whole Tale plans to stitch together already-existing tools and adapt them to work for all forms of science.

“The idea is really about rethinking the scientific publication process,” said Kyle Chard, fellow at the Computation Institute, and one of the principal investigators on the Whole Tale team.

For example, an astrophysicist studying dark matter could log into their Whole Tale environment, open up a Jupyter notebook, and access petabytes of simulation data and experimental data from the Dark Energy Survey.

“It’s about reducing barriers and integrating pieces we already have, making data easier to publish, find, and use, and capturing the research process to make computational science more reproducible.”

Because these data sets come from distributed repositories stored in the cloud, the researcher doesn’t need to download them to their local environment, and can conduct all analyses remotely as well.

After their work is finished, the researcher can use Whole Tale to publish the workflow (including any code or software used in the work), raw data, and results, all with unique digital object identifiers (DOI) for easier reference and discovery by other scientists.

This archived workflow means the Whole Tale will produce living articles that enable new researchers to pick up where the last scientist left off. In contrast to the static old journal articles gathering dust on your shelf, this is a dynamic delivery method specially tuned for the science and methods of the 21st century.

Read the original press release from the Computation Institute here.

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