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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love Your Data Week: Day 2 - Documenting, Describing, Defining

Today’s topic is “Documenting, Describing, Defining”, and so we’re taking the opportunity to highlight a platform that can help streamline those processes.

We are happy to announce that UW has become an Affiliate of the Open Science Framework! UW staff, students, and researchers can now create OSF accounts using their NetID through the “Login through your institution” pointer on the Sign Up page. Not only is OSF a fantastic tool for data management and data sharing, it’s also a tremendous resource for keeping organized throughout the research process.

In a nutshell, OSF is like Github for workflows, except it can also serve as command central for all of the bits and pieces of your work that you’ve spread over Amazon S3, Github, Google Drive, Mendeley, and elsewhere.  It is an open source, cloud-based project management platform, designed to help teams collaborate in one centralized location. Teams can connect third-party services that they already use for both storage and reference management directly to the OSF workspace. With version control, persistent URLs, and DOI registration, OSF is a powerful tool for enabling reproducible research practices.

Anyone can create an OSF account, so collaborating with people outside your institution is easy. You have fine-grain control over who has access to your project – or even individual components of your project. So OSF can serve as both the sharing platform you use for externally-focused materials like data sets and preprints, but also the secure workspace you use to keep track of internal materials like analysis protocols and manuscript drafts. (A caveat: OSF is not HIPAA compliant, so you shouldn’t upload or link to your sensitive data.)
OSF is also a great tool for teaching reproducibility, allowing instructors to not only guide the shape of their students’ projects, but also to keep tabs on how successful students are in their workflow and data management efforts. If you’d like more information on how to use OSF in the classroom, this is an excellent presentation.
We are big fans of OSF here in Research Data Services, and we encourage you to check it out. This only scratches the surface of OSF’s capabilities, so if you’d like to learn more you can visit their extensive Help section, or contact us at

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