Introducing Innovation Leaders 2020

We invite you to join our mentorship programme designed for innovators in open science and research communication.
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eLife Innovation Leaders is a new open leadership training and mentorship programme designed for innovators developing prototypes or community projects to improve open science and research communication.

Through organising the eLife Innovation Sprint for the past two years, and participating in similar events in the open science space, we realised that while these events are excellent fertile grounds for new ideas, the projects that get started at these events can often falter without further support and guidance.

With the Innovation Leaders programme, we aim to sustain and maximise the impact of events like sprints and hackathons, help turn ideas into viable solutions and empower innovators in the community to lead openly.

Key information

  • Date and duration: February–June 2020, for 14 weeks
  • Location: Online
  • Time required: ~2 hours per week
  • Application deadline: December 8, 2019
  • Successful applicants announced: Early January, 2020
  1. Apply now

About Innovation Leaders

How is the programme delivered?

As a participant (“mentee”), you will come with your own project idea/prototype. With support from mentors, experts and other programme participants, you will learn how to better develop your project through group calls, one-on-one mentorship and expert consultations.

Group calls: There will be a group call every week (~1 hour), where you will progress through the curriculum, discuss in groups and share learnings. When appropriate, we will also invite guest speakers to join the calls.

Mentorship: You will be paired with a mentor who you will meet every two weeks. The mentor will be responsible for monitoring your progress, advising on prototype/project development and putting you in contact with suitable experts.

Learning from experts: A group of experts on various aspects of product design including marketing, software development and more will be available during the programme for consultation when necessary.

A team developing open prototypes at the eLife Innovation Sprint 2019. Photo credit: Jess Brittain Photography.
A team developing open prototypes at the eLife Innovation Sprint 2019. Photo credit: Jess Brittain Photography. Source: Flickr.

What topics will the curriculum cover?

Based on Mozilla’s Open Leadership training series, you will learn about:

  • Defining your project’s purpose and goal: What it is and what it is not
  • Developing a project roadmap
  • Basic product design techniques and concepts
  • Building a contributors’ community and open co-creation
  • Measuring success
  • Community engagement
  • Accessibility and inclusivity
  • Sustainability, project maintenance and funding

What kinds of projects can you work on?

We invite ideas for tools/platforms with one or more of the following goals:

  • Improving the digital discovery, sharing, consumption and evaluation of research, including user experience, reach, efficiency and cost-effectiveness
  • Encouraging or facilitating transparency, openness and collaboration in research
  • Supporting the development of open tools, technologies and processes aimed at the above

Examples of such open projects include:

  • PREreview: A platform for crowdsourcing reviews for preprints
  • Plaudit: A widget for lightweight, open endorsements of research

We expect all participants to work openly and make resulting outputs openly available immediately or as soon as is feasible, using open-source licenses for code and software and permissive licenses (CC-BY or CC-0) for other content.

If you would like to create a project to promote best open science practices in life science and receive training in open science advocacy, please consider applying to Open Life Science, a mentorship programme designed for early-career researchers and young leaders to further their open science skills.

  1. More information on Open Life Science

Key takeaways: Theory, practice, mentorship

  • A personalised experience: You are connected with a mentor, who will oversee your progress and advise and direct you to the appropriate experts and resources
  • A shared community: You will be learning with and from your peers, and be connected to a wider network of open innovators in the open science and research communication space
  • Opportunity for further support: Your project could be considered for further support from eLife Innovation

Joining the programme

Who can apply?

We are looking for innovators developing open-source tools/platforms to further open science and research communication. You should:

  • Be passionate about openness
  • Be open minded and willing to learn (from peers and non-experts)
  • Have a clear project idea within the programme’s scope that you would like to pursue
  • Have the capacity and resources to lead your proposed project

In addition, you should:

  • Be ready to spend a minimum of two hours per week between February and June 2020 to work on the programme elements, including joining group calls and mentorship meetings (asynchronous participation is allowed, please see the “accessibility and inclusion” section below)
  • Have access to the Internet and preferably a microphone for calls
  • Be fluent in English, the primary language the programme is conducted in

You should be passionate about openness, open minded and willing to learn from others.

How to apply?

Please fill in the application form by December 8, 2019.

  1. Apply now

Your application will be blindly reviewed by at least two mentors of the programme. Applicants will be assessed and selected based on your answers to the questions on the application form and mentors’ preference.

We aim to announce successful applications early in January 2020.

Accessibility and inclusion

We seek to host an accessible and inclusive programme:

  • Asynchronous participation is allowed; all calls are recorded and available to be viewed later
  • We will communicate a syllabus at the beginning of the programme and all call agendas before the calls
  • The programme operates a strict Code of Conduct (to be communicated closer to the beginning of the programme)

Please let us know if you have any specific requirements via the application form. We aim to get back to you by mid-December to discuss the requirements and potential arrangements.

Working together at the eLife Innovation Sprint 2018. Orquidea Real Photobook – Julieta Sarmiento Photography.
Working together at the eLife Innovation Sprint 2018. Orquidea Real Photobook – Julieta Sarmiento Photography. Source: Flickr.


Can we apply as a team?
Yes, a maximum of two people per team. You only need to fill in one application form and one of you would need to serve as the primary contact for the application.

Can I join the programme with an existing project?
We are specifically looking for nascent ideas and testable prototypes. If your existing project is currently in beta, or you’re looking to develop a new feature on something existing, convince us in your application that you and your project would benefit from the programme. If your project is already mainstream and you want to chip away at some issues, this programme probably isn’t the right fit.

Can I apply if I have been in a Mozilla Open Leaders Programme before?
Yes, but please expect large curriculum overlaps (>50%) with the Mozilla Open Leaders Programme. Please consider joining the programme as a mentor or expert – for more information on this, please contact Emmy at innovation [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

Can I join with a closed project?
As long as you commit to making it open (:

Can I apply without a project idea?
Unfortunately not, but you can contribute to the programme by becoming a mentor or expert.

Does participation in the programme guarantee future support from eLife?
No, if participants and projects are interested in further support from eLife after the programme, they will be evaluated individually (read how we evaluate ideas here).

Can participants choose their mentors?
Not for this round– mentors are pre-assigned by the organiser. If you require a certain expertise for your project, you are welcome to consult our panel of experts.

What language is this programme in?
Primarily in English.

I have further questions.
Please contact Emmy at innovation [at] elifesciences [dot] org.


The organiser would like to acknowledge and thank the following people for their contributions to Innovation Leaders so far:

  • The Mozilla Open Leaders X organisers and cohort members, for providing feedback and support; in particular to Abby Cabunoc Mayes for mentorship and guidance, and to the OpenLifeSci team (Yo Yehudi, Malvika Sharan and Berenice Batut) for collaborative efforts and discussions
  • The eLife team (Giuliano, Kora and Rowena) for feedback and advice
  • Chiara and Kaitlin for their input on making the programme more accessible and inclusive


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

Do you have an idea or innovation to share? Send a short outline for a Labs blogpost to innovation [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

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