"Quick, Joi -- I need a codename so I can blog about our project. What's your favorite baby animal?"
And so begins the public chronicle of Project Puppy. I must apologize for the obscurity; we're still waiting to get consent from our interviewees to be 100% transparent about the whole project, but the short version: Project Puppy is radically transparent engineering education research. What would it mean to run an engineering education project like an open source one - if you assumed an abundance rather than a scarcity mentality, if you shared rather than hoarded your data, if you welcomed surprises and "uninvited" contributions instead of carefully curating access? What would happen?
At least that's the lens I'm bringing to it - my other collaborators all come from different backgrounds and perspectives. Linda Vanasupa from Cal Poly started the whole story; some time ago, Linda recorded 8 fascinating interviews, but didn't have time to go through and analyze them. So she poked Robin Adams at Purdue, who brought up the idea to a few grad students: Joi-Lynn Mondisa (doing mentoring research), Junaid Siddiqui (doing transformation research), Dana Dennick (using conceptual change frameworks), myself (radical transparency and the open source way). And off we ran.
We've poked around the data a bit, but today was the first conversation we had about what it might mean to make this an "open research project." What if we asked our interviewees - there are only 8, after all - for permission to release their transcripts under a Creative Commons license (Linda's idea) and then did our coding process in public so that people could see what it looked like to do engineering education research?
Sure, there are concerns to deal with (for instance, Junaid brought up the question of what happens if someone does a writeup on "our" data that is a distorted misrepresentation - how would we deal with that?) but this opens up some interesting possibilities. For instance, not only would we have (we hope) some papers, but we'd get out a manageable-sized dataset for coding practice in a qualitative methods research course for anyone who wanted it. We'd be working with questions of open access - which Dana, with her library science background, intellectually understands but doesn't practice, and which I, with my open source background, practice but may not be fully conscious of. We'd be looking at an interesting model of research mentorship and resource allocation; Robin already mentioned that it was refreshing for her to not be "the boss" of the project, and to not have the pressures of funding breathing down our necks!
In short, it's an adventure. Now, Project Puppy isn't about radical transparency per se. It's a "normal" engineering education research project (on a topic I can't yet reveal, but Linda's working on that) we're trying to conduct in a radically transparent way. My job, in part, is to model this radical transparency for the rest of the group - and so here comes this blog post. More stories to come!