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Opening Up the “Open Science Challenge”

Maria Thompson on September 11, 2012

Scientist has always operated on mission of “empowering scientists.” What that boils down to is continuously asking ourselves “does this help scientists?” We started learning about the Open Science movement and realized the question is much more far-reaching than we thought. For the unfamiliar, Open Science is based on the concept that science can be done by anyone and community collaboration is the key to innovation. Scientists, amateur or professional, were empowering themselves by having meet ups, organizing online discussion, pooling resources, and testing ideas outside of traditional laboratories. “Does this help scientists?” expanded beyond product design and became a question we asked of our community efforts.

Open Science started as an online movement, but has quickly rallied scientists to create local communities such as BioCurious, a community laboratory hackerspace in Sunnyvale, CA. With our renewed mission in mind, we partnered with BioCurious to launch our now-complete Bay Area Open Science Challenge. The competition attracted 9 great applications, although a bit lower than we hoped, we still had trouble deciding on 2 winners. More importantly, we found that the Open Science movement had some great minds working on ideas, but not enough support in terms of funding or services out there.

With the success of the Bay Area Challenge, the next step would be to support open science groups in other cities, such as our recently launched Tri-State Open Science challenge with Genspace. We also plan to launch our Make Your Mark series, a competition targeted at high school students and teachers to help promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), an area that we learned needs more help. Finally, in order to promote science on a larger scale, we have a competition starting up in mid-October for rare disease studies, open worldwide, rather than localized areas. We’re working with the Rare Genomics Institute and tons of excellent CROs on that one, so keep an eye out for the launch of that competition. Science can be done anywhere and for anything, but it just needs a guiding hand that we hope we can provide.