Destination Areas Global Speaker Series features Chilean Engineer Dr. Lorena Barba

Open Doors for Research, Learning, and Creativity: the Second Iteration of DAGSS

From: Alec Masella, Digital Strategy and Outreach, University Libraries

On October 26 and 27, the University Libraries and Pamplin College of Business will team up with the College of Engineering for the second iteration of the Destination Areas Global Speaker Series (DAGSS). The speakers in these events are invited to campus to inspire faculty researchers in Virginia Tech’s Destination Areas to approach challenging topics in their fields with new ideas from around the world. Guest speaker Dr. Lorena Barba, Chilean engineer and associate professor at the George Washington University, will offer insight into open education efforts and emphasize the importance of reproducible research.

DAGSS welcomes Barba to the university to share her knowledge and experience with undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. An internationally recognized engineer and professor, Barba has a wealth of advice and encouragement for both young and seasoned Destination Areas researchers. Her awards and credentials from Caltech and fellowships with Zonta International Foundation and NVIDIA Corporation highlight her as a role model in the STEM field. Barba’s wisdom and drive, however, transcend science— her ability to communicate the importance of open research influences scholars in all fields and redefines the ways in which we should conduct interdisciplinary research.

This iteration of DAGSS will emphasize the need for open educational resources (OER) in research. OER consist of research and other digital information, including learning and teaching materials, that are free to the public. By making scientific findings more widely available, researchers around the world can both connect with and build off one another’s work— in this way OER efficiently advances research in the STEM field and beyond.

Three DAGSS events offer the opportunity to learn from and interact with Barba during her visit to Virginia Tech: “Teaching in STEM Disciplines: Open Source Methods,” “What Savvy Open Scholars Know and Do,” and “Gender and Diversity in Engineering.” The purpose of these components is to recognize the versatility of research as well as the importance of open research practices. As Open Education Librarian Anita Walz puts it, DAGSS provides “a chance to talk with other academics doing top-notch and really interesting work, including teaching.”

DAGSS attendees will gain practical knowledge of open and reproducible scholarship and learn the value of open source philosophy. Through contact with renowned scholars at the event, they will also get a sense of direction for future research and how it should impact future researchers. Further, this event will inspire diversity and inclusion across the business and STEM fields.

Barba’s academic stance is that open source material is essential to furthering research. In her 2016 Science article “The Hard Road to Reproducibility,” she reflects on a moment in her Ph.D. studies when she had to run a pre-made computer code but had no way of contacting the original coder. Consequently, Barba spent nearly a year workshopping the code until it became reliable. The frustration she endured distracted from initial research goals and procedures.

Since then, Barba has dedicated her attention to open science practices: “Whenever [my research team and I] publish a paper, we create a ‘reproducibility package,’ deposited online, which includes the data sets and all the code that is needed to recreate the analyses and figures. These are the practices that work for us as computational scientists, but the principles behind them apply regardless of discipline.” Barba’s research in computational fluid dynamics is  interdisciplinary, crossing into the realms of computer science and biomolecular physics. Since research within these fields relies on similar computations, she has found that there needs to be consistent, well-explained, and open source information for it (see the Lorena A. Barba Group’s philosophy on sharing code).

This speaker series is open to all and stitches together the cross-disciplinary, international, and philosophical aspects of open research to benefit a wide scope of students and educators. Additionally, Dr. Barba’s personal outlook on conducting meaningful research stands out in this invaluable and engaging experience. The University Libraries, Pamplin College of Business, and College of Engineering look forward to bringing the Virginia Tech community these unique and inspiring events.

Additional Information

Information on Open Access is to be found on Philip Young’s Open@VT: Access to Information at Virginia Tech, and more information on Open Source Methods is available in Anita Walz’s Research Guide Open Educational Resources: OER Overview.