Innovation: Supporting online collaboration at the Mozilla Global Sprint 2017

eLife sponsored a two-day event that encouraged attendees to contribute to over 130 open source projects.
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On June 1 and 2, 2017, we participated in the Mozilla Global Sprint, a two-day event with 70 hosted sites around the world (52 outside the US). As a site sponsor, we were pleased to support three site leads with £500 each to provide the necessary materials and refreshments for productive sprinting in Perth, Australia, Sango-Ota, Nigeria, and London, UK.

The sprint offered dedicated time and space for attendees to contribute to over 130 open source projects working to improve the health of the internet. Testament to Mozilla’s dedicated efforts to support open science through the Mozilla Science Lab initiative, over 40 global sprint projects were related to improving research communication, from advocacy and teaching projects about open science to researcher tools for working with open science infrastructure. Mozilla’s analysis of the activity on Github, the collaborative coding platform used as a platform for the sprint, revealed the most active projects during the sprint were the open science projects, with the top five being OpenSNP, Library Carpentry, Phage Parser, a command line tool for the Open Science Framework (OSF-CLI), and The Method podcast.

Trust Odia, site host in Sango-Ota and Research Assistant at Covenant University Bioinformatics Research Group, recruited participants to work on his nascent project to build a computing resource, or grid, across campuses in Nigeria. During the sprint, he introduced the 20 site participants to GitHub, an essential first step for potential developers of his project, which aims to enable collaborative cross-campus data science research. Trust tells us he is passionate about developing tools and resources for research, and he also contributes to the Bionode project, led by Bruno Vieira and also featured during the sprint.

Rob Syme was joined by 10 others for his sprint at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. The participants at this site contributed mostly to the Library Carpentry and OpenSNP projects, with Philipp Bayer, one of the OpenSNP co-founders, present in person. The participants in Perth contributed to major changes in the OpenSNP codebase. For the participants who were new to coding, peer-to-peer support at the sprint helped to teach them how to use Github for online collaboration. Rob said, “It is always hugely helpful to have somebody with an intimate knowledge of the codebase available to get newcomers up to speed quickly.” Rob is also working on Aletheia, a decentralised platform for publishing built on the blockchain and was featured as a sprint project.

Mozilla Sprint Tweet

Naomi Penfold, eLife Innovation Officer, was hosted at the London sprint by Sarah Allen. Here, there were contributors to a whole range of projects building a healthier internet, including the Mozilla Privacy Arcade as well as BrainBox Tutorials and the DIY Science Network. Naomi gave a lunchtime talk about innovation at eLife to the Mozilla developers based at the office. Considering the outcomes of the sprint, Sarah said, “I think the biggest achievement was the cross collaborations with people who firmly saw themselves in the science research sector mixing with [developers] who were were working on [the] privacy [and Internet of Things] projects… It was great to [have] eLife in the office, the lunch was a great connector and [provided a] moment to look up from laptops to foster connections offline.”

Mozilla Sprint London event

Throughout the sprint, there were opportunities to connect with participants at other sites, and those working alone from their own homes, both through video chats and the event’s dedicated Gitter channel. Naomi joined videoconferencing calls for project leads across Europe and the US, to explain eLife’s interest in open-source tools to accelerate discovery and to hear about the sprint projects in more detail. The sprint was an excellent basis on which to develop conversations about the projects and to connect with the people behind the projects. We look forward to seeing how these projects develop.

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