I am now a Mozilla Fellow for Science

Written by: Richard Smith-Unna Last updated: 2015-10-07 18:15:00 +0000

With great delight, I can now announce that for the next 10 months I will be a Mozilla Fellow for Science. This is extremely exciting, not just because I get to focus my energy on open science, but because I will be working with and learning from some seriously impressive people: the three other fellows and the Mozilla Science Lab team. For me this is a validation that the things I care about are important to others too, and that the strategy I’ve been using to encourage change is working.

The fellowship has been carefully thought out by the MSL team, and I’d like to thank them in particular for paying attention to the needs of people with families. They have gone above and beyond with their support.

Our son Max was born in July, so the application deadline of mid-August couldn’t have been worse timing for me. However, with support and encouragement from my partner Steph and my friends and mentors, I was able to pull together an application I was happy with. I want to thank my supervisor Julian Hibberd; my colleague and leader of the ContentMine project Peter Murray-Rust; and my perpetually supportive future boss, Chuck Norris Titus Brown for their advice. They challenged me to make my answers to the application questions go way outside my comfort zone, both in terms of the ambition of my proposed project, and in how much I highlighted my own successes. One memorable piece of advice from Peter was that I should “try not to be too British” - meaning that I should sell myself. I did, and I tried to have fun with it. You can see my application and notes on Github.

There were three separate Skype interviews with different people on the MSL team. I prepared for these by researching the people who would be interviewing me. As I read about their skills and achievements I was inspired to think deeply about many aspects of open science. Steph and I then mock-interviewed endlessly about these ideas during some long drives. This meant that during the interviews I was super excited to talk to the team about how my ideas related to theirs, which I think is probably what allowed me to have three of the best interviews I’ve ever had. I couldn’t be more honoured and excited to get to work with MSL. In the next few days I’ll add my notes for the interview strategy to my application Github repo - maybe they’ll help someone in the future.

Officially, the fellowship starts next week. I’ll be logging everything I do on Github. My first task, which I do in preparation for every big change in my life, is to map my knowledge and figure out where I need to focus my learning to optimise for what’s to come. In addition to the work I’ll be doing on open science, I’m looking forward to working with the other fellows to make this fellowship as effecitve as possible. For example, I’d like to collect resources on how to engineer change at the institutional and societal levels, and for us to record our experiences of trying to put this into action. So, another starting task is to connect with the other fellows about this. Finally, I’ll be assembling a team of mentors, people who have walked this path, to help me be as effective as I can be during my fellowship - so far I’ve had commitment from the three people already mentioned (Julian, Peter, Titus) as well as my friend and training collaborator Vicky Schneider.

That’s all for now - I’ll be back soon with detailed plans and ideas.

p.s. Thanks to Steph Smith-Unna and Rob Patro for feedback on this post.

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