Sharper view of the cosmos through reproducible science

Supercomputer at the Centro de Astrofísica de La Palma
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The team led by the researcher from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) Mohammad Akhlaghi has obtained a European grant to develop a project focused on the handling of large quantities of data, and the capacity to be able to reproduce any scientific result by another research group.

It is 400 years that astronomers are studying the sky through the filter of a telescope, not only their naked eyes. Since the last few decades even telescopes are not sufficient. “We now 'see' the sky through software”, explains Mohammad Akhlaghi, a researcher at the IAC, who is the driver of the Template for Reproducible Scientific Articles. “Therefore, just as its important for an astronomer to calibrate and control the optical elements of a telescope and camera that the light passes through, we also need to perfectly calibrate and control the layers of software that data passes through”, he adds.

The team of astrophysicists at the IAC led by Mohammad Akhlaghi has developed a template for scientific articles whose aim is to help other researchers reproduce independently the data obtained.  This initiative has procured European funding from the Research Data Alliance (RDA) organization. Since its formation in 2013, this organization, founded by the European Commission, USA's National Science Foundation and the Australian Government, supports the building of social and technical bridges which permit the interchange of data, in order to tackle society’s major challenges. Nowadays, it has almost 9000 members (data scientists from all fields).

The Template of Reproducible Scientific Articles faces up to the problems of reproducibility of the results in research. To obtain exactly the same results as a research project developed thirty years ago may become an unattainable goal. The vast quantities of data handled then and now, the changes in the techniques and the software used could lead to similar but not identical results. “The IAC project proposes that the publications with scientific results are accompanied by the data, the techniques, and the software needed so that any other person may arrive at the same result” explains Raúl Infante-Sainz, one of the collaborators in the project.

The new project, which will be carried out using the grant from the RDA will yield a number of substantial improvements to the template, and will permit its application to other branches of science.

Members of the project are: Mohammad Akhlaghi, Raúl Infante-Sainz, Johan Knapen, Ignacio Trujillo and David Valls-Gabaud.

More information: Adoption Grant Introductions - Template for Reproducible, Shareable And Archivable Data Analysis