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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Open Notebook Science: the version control approach

Jean-Claude Bradley pitched the idea of Open Notebook Science, or Open-notebook science as the proper spelling seems to be. I have used notebooks a lot, but ever since I went digital, the use went down. During my PhD studies I still extensively used them. But in the process, I changed my approach. Influenced by open source practices.

After all, open source has had a long history of version control, where commit messages explain the reason why some change was made. And people that ever looked at my commits, know that my commits tend to be small. And know that my messages describe the purpose of some commit.

That is my open notebook. It is essential to record why a certain change was made and what exactly that change was. Trivial with version control. Mind you, version control is not limited to source code. Using the right approaches, data and writing can easily be tracked with version control too. Just check, for example, my GitHub profile. You will find journal articles been written, data collected, just as if they were equal research outputs (they are).

Another great example of version control for writing and data is provided by Wikipedia and Wikidata. Now, some changes I found hard to track there: when I asked the SourceMD tool (great work by Magnus Manske) to create items for books, I want to see the changes made. The tool did link to the revisions made at some point, but this service integration seems to break down now and then. Then I realized that I could use the EditGroups tool directly (HT to who wrote that), and found this specific page for my edits, which includes not just those via SourceMD but also all edits I made via QuickStatements (also by Magnus):


If only I could give a "commit message" which each QuickStatements job I run. Can I?

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