Innovation: Collaboration and creativity at the heart of the eLife Innovation Sprint 2018

On May 10 and 11, 62 community members designed and developed for open science at the eLife Innovation Sprint.

On May 10 and 11, 62 developers, researchers and designers gathered in Cambridge, UK, for two days of collaboration and creativity in the name of innovation for open science.

Group photo of the participants outside the venue
The participants at the eLife Sprint. Orquidea Real Photobook – Julieta Sarmiento Photography. Source: Flickr.

Representing a cross-section of technology, design, research and publishing spheres, 50 participants from around the world joined 12 of eLife’s technology, product and production team members to work on new and existing projects that bring cutting-edge technology to open research communication. The full participant list is available online.

Tweet from Jeroen Bosman; "It seems that half of the world's smart scholcomm people are concentrated in one place today and yesterday..."
Source: Twitter.

“Collaboration is awesome!”

The aim of the eLife Sprint was to provide the community with space, time and access to diverse skill sets in order to develop ideas into prototypes and forge new collaborations. After introducing themselves and sharing their project ideas, participants formed groups organically around complementary interests and objectives, resulting in 13 projects with team sizes ranging from one to nine. The project ideas ranged from plug-ins and web-based tools to make researchers’ lives easier, to designing conceptual shifts in the way we share, review and endorse research. Read more about the projects in our roundup on Labs. The participants enjoyed a productive and collaborative atmosphere, with over 2,500 messages exchanged on the eLife Sprint Slack group during the week of the event.

This was hands down one of the most productive two-day sprints that I’ve ever been involved in

— Ian Mulvany, SAGE publishing (source: Medium)

Six coloured name badge ribbons with job roles printed on
Participants wore name-badge ribbons to identify their skills and expertise. Orquidea Real Photobook – Julieta Sarmiento Photography. Source: Flickr.

A strong spirit of collaboration was evident throughout the event. While some participants wrote code to create new tools or extend existing ones, others focused on experience design and developing user stories. Several participants could also be seen moving between teams, lending their skills and expertise to as many projects as they could.

We’ve networked and learned a lot about what it means to meaningfully and thoughtfully work together as researchers, innovators, developers and open science community enthusiasts to further open practices, and how to build and sustain this momentum

— Oarabile Mudongo, Funda (previously #Rethink Web Literacy; source: Medium)

The team working on Project Trackbook made the most of the opportunity by conducting user interviews with current life science researchers in the room, helping them test their early-stage design concepts with actual prospective users.

Three participants sat on sofas with laptops and in discussion
At the Sprint, the Project Trackbook team conducted user interviews with researcher participants. From left to right: Delwen Franzen, Kirstie Whitaker and Marek Kultys. Danielle Robinson.

For Jupyter + Stencila, Min and Daniel directly engaged the developers of Stencila online, and arrived back on the morning of day two to find that Nokome Bentley, lead developer of Stencila, had worked overnight from his New Zealand timezone to help move their project forward while they slept.

An associate event to Mozilla Global Sprint, the atmosphere at the eLife Innovation Sprint was one of collaboration, inclusivity and fun. Virtual contributors participating in the Mozilla Global Sprint also shared interest and useful resources to the eLife Sprint projects, notably to assist and WikiCiteVis.

As we shared outputs at the end of day two, multiple participants reflected that “collaboration is awesome” – and we agree. We thank all participants and contributors for engaging so warmly and constructively throughout the Sprint. As work on some of the projects continues beyond the event, we seek to support the community to bring their ideas to life, and to stimulate the development of testable products to share with the wider community. Their projects are described in eLife Labs.

After meeting so many open science advocates and experiencing first-hand the sense of urgency and excitement surrounding these initiatives, my faith [in a world in which science can be open, transparent and reproducible] has officially been restored

— Alessandra Dillenburg, University of Edinburgh (source: PLOS ECR Community blog)

A community event

We thank the eLife Sprint sponsors and partners who helped make this event possible. We thank our community partner, Biomakespace and, in particular, Jenny Molloy and Tony Naggs, who helped coordinate and facilitate the event. We are also grateful to our venue partner, Cambridge Junction, particularly Ruth Moore, Chris Woods, Lewis Anderson, Olly and Martin, as well as Dan and Colin from associates Heron IT, who ensured the participants could enjoy a productive work environment.

With the generous support of Addgene, Arcadia – the charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin – and Mozilla Foundation, we were able to support 18 participants to travel to Cambridge and contribute in person. We also thank Mozilla for supporting the eLife Sprint as an associate event to the Mozilla Global Sprint. The cloud computing and hosting was powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) thanks to the AWS Cloud Credits for Research programme.

We are pleased to share more blogs about the eLife Sprint by some of the participants:

Finally, we thank Julieta Sarmiento (Orquidea Real Photobook – Julieta Sarmiento Photography) and Paul Gibson and Simon Hagan Go Vocal Media for documenting the event. Browse the official photos (all CC-BY Orquidea Real Photobook – Julieta Sarmiento Photography; and stay tuned for videos.

We welcome comments, questions and feedback. Please annotate publicly on the article or contact us at innovation [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

For the latest in innovation and technology from eLife, sign up for our technology and innovation newsletter. You can also follow @eLifeInnovation on Twitter.