OpenWetWare steering committee/SC retreat

From OpenWetWare
Revision as of 18:46, 24 July 2006 by Jason R. Kelly (talk | contribs) (Agenda (1pm-6pm))

The OWW retreat is a relaxed opportunity to reevalute the mission and future directions of OpenWetWare.
Location: 68-121
Time: 1pm - 6pm

Location Suggestions

Location should be able to handle teleconferencing. Fast internet connection would probably be sufficient - we could use skype.

68-121 is now reserved from 1pm to 8pm --Sri Kosuri 14:54, 18 July 2006 (EDT)

Agenda (1pm-6pm)

Welcome/Introducion (1:00-1:30pm)

  • Why we're having this meeting:
    • Survival of OWW
    • Decisions are currently made ad-hoc, would like to have a mission statement for OWW to use to evaluate options more systematically.
    • Decide on an organizational structure to make decisions and carry them out.
  • This meeting is not a discussion of how we might specifically implement new technologies on the site (e.g. we should focus on bigger issues, rather than technical implementation details.)
  • 5 min introductions:
    • Who you are, what you currently use OWW for and your vision for OWW in the future.

Technical infrastructure

  • What would it take to keep the site operating indefinitely in its current incarnation.

Mission (1:30-3:00)

To help specify a mission statement, we have listed the current mission statement as well as outlined some of the current issues in each of the major areas of use on OWW. We hope that thinking about these issues will help to crystalize the contentious components of the mission statement.

Current mission statement

OpenWetWare is an effort to promote the sharing of information, know-how, and wisdom among researchers and groups who are working in biology & biological engineering. If you would like edit access, would be interested in helping out, or want your lab website hosted on OpenWetWare, please let us know.

Research Laboratory Communities

  • Users have requested private pages on the wiki, for sharing sensitive information amongst collaborators.
    • Usually we can enable both collaboration and open sharing, but in this case they butt heads - what is the priority for OWW in this case?
  • Users have requested a distribution of OWW to run locally in their labs with easy mechanisms to post content to the main OWW site.
    • Is it worth our time to develop tools that are useful to biological researchers independent of the OWW site?
  • Labs use OWW as their lab/collaboration ( homepage
    • How actively do we encourage this (vs. contributing to the shared information resources)?
  • Labs unaffialited with biology have requested to be on OWW, up till now we have rejected their requests.
    • Should we remain solely a biology resource? If so, where is the line between biology and the rest of science/engineering?
    • Are ethicists, policy-makers, science reporters, etc, included in our community?

Shared information resources

  • Users have developed shared information resources pages - such as protocols, materials, equipment, strains, etc.
    • Users also put up their own versions of protocols, materials, etc, should we encourage either approach over the other?


  • There have been a couple courses taught using OWW. OWW was useful for course development, increasing student involvement, reusing materials, and course improvements. Research communities have used some of the course materials as well.
    • Do we have any restrictions on the type of course that can be hosted on OWW? Should it be limited to lab courses, biology courses, etc?
    • There are HS Biology Olympiad pages on OWW, should we allow that to continue?
    • Should we have non-researcher students on the site?


  • John is using OWW to allow for feedback on submitted abstracts, others have posted lab notebooks, preliminary results, drafts of papers for publication, etc.
    • Do we want to encourage the development of OWW as an alternative publishing platform?


  • Are we restricting ourselves by defining a mission itself. Currently, we allow almost everything that has to do with biology on the site. This has allowed us to take advantage of opportunities that individuals have started, and usurp them into the larger mission of OWW. However, it also puts us in a dillemma when we have to consider where to pool our resources to make improvements. What do people think?


  • ???

BREAK - cookies! (3:00-3:30pm)

Organizational Structure (3:30-5:00pm)

Current approach

  • Steering committee discusses topics seeking consensus.
    • Membership is voluntary.
    • Secretary/Coordinator to run meetings, take notes
    • Volunteer sub-comittee chairs (Education, Info Management, Publicity, etc)
  • Admin list deciding on new user approvals and are the point of contact for people emailing OWW.
    • This list is volunteers from the SC: Sri, Jason, Austin, Ilya, Reshma, Barry, Ty, Jeff
  • Technical team: Sri, Austin, Ilya
    • Have access to write to the server and interface with Tech Square, Inc.
    • No formal mechanism was used to choose these members.
  • Spokespeople to press, etc: Sri, Jason, Drew in practice
    • No formal mechanism was used to choose these members.
  • Other opportunities are addressed by adhoc groups
    • OCW, NSF grant, Nature


  • No agreed upon mechanism for making official decisions
  • No clear spokesperson to interact with press, 3rd parties, etc.
  • How best to involve new (non-local) people in leadership of the site.


  • How do people feel about setting in place an organizational structure for next 6 months based on the current adhoc leadership. This will give them explicit authority, rather than the current implicit approach. Secondly, all major decisions not directly related to the sub-positions will be made by majority vote of the steering committee. TO be clear the sub-positions are:
  1. SC Coordinator - organizes SC meetings
  2. SC Secretary - takes meeting notes, organizes the SC wiki area
  3. Site administration team (may need leader) - keeps site infrastructure functioning and updated
  4. Spokesperson - talks to cold calling 3rd parties - individuals would still be able to setup new interactions independent of the spokesperson, e.g. reshma talking to OCW
  • During the next 6 months a group will be responsible for defining the long-term organizational structure and it would be voted on by the SC in December. or if we have time we can figure all this out today :).

Break (5:00-5:15)

Conclusions & Other topics(5:15-6:00pm)

  • Things we missed.
  • Wrap-up

Previous Discussions

Please fill in discussion topics for the agenda here. Seeded with some of the discussion from the last SC meeting

  1. What OpenWetWare is:
    • Online Notebook?
    • Collaborative Research?
    • Collaborative Education?
    • Novel Research Publishing Channel?
    • Other?
    • Can OWW be all of these things or are some of them mutually exclusive?
  2. What OpenWetWare is not
    • Wikipedia has something just like this here, worth looking at.
  3. What sort of decision making processes / formal organizational structure do we want?
    • What is the role of the steering committee?
      • Maintain the site?
      • Evaluate/approve user initiatives?
      • Pursue our own agenda (open publishing, protocol repository, etc)?
      • All of the above/other?
  4. What are our goals?
    • Survival of the organism
      • What are the basal costs associated with keeping OWW alive?
    • Maintain the ability of the site to evolve
      • Keep barriers low for people doing new things on the site.
    • Have resources to react to new things that develop.
      • SC should be able to provide $ and resources to see though promising projects coming up from the community.
    • Grow and organize the community of superusers.
      • As it stands now, people may be less inclined to help since the SC is taking on too many of the site responsibilities. And we can't do everything, particularly as the site scales.
      • Is there a way to seed interaction/cooperation of users with similar types of skills to contribute to particular "tasks" needed to maintain and improve the site? ex: group pages where people sign up to contribute (like to improving the software for the site), have lists of what needs to be done (maybe can be defined by the group)? May also want to consider having one or two "non-experts" in each group to make sure things stay user-friendly for those who aren't so saavy at certain things.
  5. What is the best path forward?
  6. Game plan for how to assess new funding opportunities
    • Funding: the private wiki installation idea that we've been discussing could have a suggested donation $ amount when you download it. This could fund the development of the public site perhaps?
    • Based on above ideas, what types of questions do we need to ask when new funding opportunities arise (or we seek them out) such that we can ensure these sources can be used to support (and are not contrary to) the goals we have set for OWW?
  7. Changing wiki front page appearance
    • Should we consider converting our front page to a friendly cover rather than the table of contents?
      • Possible try making our wiki look less like a "wiki" and more like a normal website (with more style, of course)?
    • Beta-test of a possible front page in early brainstorming stages.
      • Includes items discussed during SC meeting --Video of the Month, Picture of the Week.
      • publishing on the front page? links to new publications? news? Are we a publisher of novel research?