OpenWetWare:Air Traffic Control

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Lorrie's thoughts on...

Open Research Pipeline Analysis

Who and what we want to be...

If we're going to integrate OWW into the existing publishing/rewards model for the sciences, we need to make strategic choices about what we want to be and set specific goals for growth based on our mission and vision. This includes goals for what we work on, tools we build and/or support, how we fund our work, strategic partnerships we engage in, our target audience, how we marketing ourselves to them, etc.


Money coming into any MIT-based consortium is controlled by the office of sponsored research. Monies that are gifts are subject to a 10% MIT overhead "tax"; monies from any other source, such as corporate or federal grants are subject to a 50% tax.

Consortia maybe be single sponsor or multi sponsor.


  • Venture Mentoring Services meeting notes and actions
  • Advertising models
    • Advertising income from industry partners: for example, a New England BioLabs "click this restriction enzyme to order"(originally Drew's idea). This could be a stable, long-term and community-friendly model for generating operating revenue. Who else could we work with using this model? Also need to investigate corporate sponsorship and donations.
  • Google. Apply for a Google Grant?
  • Who else to approach in the short term (from the team retreat list)

Even though we don't have a need for it today, I think we need to immediately start identifying some possible shorter-term funding sources. Any donations or grants we can get from, say, Google could be put into an operating budget. To prep for this search, we will likely need to assemble an "about OWW" presentation.

Building a community...

  • Talked with John Cumbers about his ideas for the Open Science Concept Lab. This OSI stuff is strategically interesting for OWW because it's the sort of community spinout venture that we definitely want to encourage. John's wondering if it should be an OWW initiative or a freestanding venture. I like the idea of it as a freestanding venture that is developed in close partnership with OWW. This way we can be intimately involved in the parts that are interesting to us or fit with our goals, and he'll be free to look for his own funding for the parts we can't or don't want to support. I'm all for supporting him, either with seed money or via partnership, hosting his stuff on OWW, etc.
  • Talked with Maureen Hoatlin about how to sell the virtues of OWW to PIs and lab heads. Interesting conversation. It underscored my thinking that OWW needs a short- and long-term marketing plan. Got some more thinking to do about that, but in the meanwhile, I've been thinking about ways to step up community interest. We merged the Community Brainstorming list yesterday and I'll set up a meeting the week of Feb. 25 to go over it. One idea we explored in our group chat last week was open science "open coffee" meet-up sessions.

Here are a few ideas I've been knocking around:

  • Energize the community via grassroots approach
  • Root out all the interested (and interesting) professional and amateur individuals in the field
  • Create forums and mechanisms for those individuals (and others) to have persistent conversations and relationships, either on the main OWW site or on satellite sites

Blogging (need to find what if any of this stuff we're already doing):

  • Step up use of the OWW blog, maybe with me and/or the SC driving a loose editorial of the issues we face, challenges, breakthroughs and approaches, etc. and providing coverage for interesting things in the OWW's periphery.
  • Encourage other experienced OWWers to write more frequently on the blog - creating a public conversation amongst OWW-ers, and including PLoS, IGEM, BioBricks folk, etc.
  • Talk up the 'garage entrepreneurs' angle and parallels to the software industry, hopefully to draw in thinkers from other industries for cross-pollination of ideas. The more people who come to OWW to read this stuff, the better. They don't all need to be biologists.
  • Throw out some 'Tales from the Future' speculation on applications and technology that people like Wired can cover - is there a place for 'Concept Biology' ala Concept Cards?
  • Follow the commenters, people who bookmark the posts on, tag them in Technorati. Talk to these people and see if they'd like to contribute to the blog; track what they're writing online too and reference it. Invite them to our coffee meetups.
  • Talk to Radar, Boing Boing and others about what we're doing; connect with the interesting thought leaders at companies like 23andme to draw them into contributing.
  • Get some informal advice from switched on PR people like Democracy PR. There's no such thing as too much PR.

Building community in the corporeal world

Real-World meet up sessions in various geographic locations. The following ideas are courtesy of Imran Ali (, a friend of mine in the UK who runs successful open coffee sessions on various tech-oriented subjects:

  • Register Link it back to OWW.
  • Consider and emailing to all the interesting bio people we know to announce a coffee meetup at a local coffee house with wifi. Need to figure out how to do this--or what to do-- so it's not perceived as spam. Do we already have an OWW mailing list?
  • Announce the event on Upcoming, Facebook, LinkedIn and OWW mailing lists or staffer's email address books - who does OWW know?
  • On the day - put $50-100 onto the tab so people can get free drinks and pastries; try and surface a couple sponsors willing to do this for future events.
  • Make sure you blog everyone you meet and provide a wrap-up post for everyone who could and couldn't come - get people to tag photos and posts a particular way, so the 'master' bioblend site can pickup everyone's contributions.
  • Encourage people to repeat the formula above at their own institutions and towns around the world.

Integrating OWW into the exisiting Publishing and Reward Structures..

  • I'm arranging conversations with Randy, Meagan, and Mac about the ways in which OWW can more closely with BioBricks and iGem.
  • Am starting to build a plan for publishing iGem 2008 projects. Work with BioBricks and IET Synthetic Biology? Can we promise the participants that their work will be published somewhere? Who do we talk with to figure this out?

Note: Randy isn't interested in officially endorsing OWW for iGEM lab notebooks.

Talked with an Mulvaney of NPG / Connotea. They're interested in working with us, which is a start, though I'm not sure what interests them most really interests us. He did, however, volunteer to post video interviews of the winners of iGem 2008 on Nature's Second Life island (Second Nature). We may also be able to get some exposure for iGem on Connotea. More discussion to follow.

  • In the bigger, longer-term picture, continue to learn more about online peer review, DOI stuff, etc. How can we explore speeding up the process of research results --> peer review --> publish (on OWW or with a partner) with a "ready for prime time" stamp of approval?
  • Also, take a closer look at the Arxiv model. It's one of the few (only?) open publishing models that currently works. Why does it work? What can we learn from it?