OpenWetWare steering committee/SC retreat

From OpenWetWare
Jump to navigationJump to search

Outcomes from the retreat

Other ideas

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 (technical infrastructure)
    • 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. OWW provides a place for labs, individuals, and groups to organize their own information and collaborate with others easily and efficiently. In the process, we hope that OWW will not only lead to greater collaboration between member groups, but also provide a useful information portal to our colleagues, and ultimately the rest of the world.

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)?
      • Is there a way to let these "specialized" collaborations occur while encouraging/requiring some contribution to shared resources? Should we be more explicit with rules? i.e. some of your content must contribute to the OWW community as a whole if you are going to host your site on OWW; you can't be an independent unit that doesn't "interact" with the rest of the community.
      • Doesn't having content in the OWW domain make the interaction with the rest of the community automatic?
  • 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?
      • Need to have a clear "definition" of biology to do this. May need a more formal mechanism (by committee?) to decide who can join. How is this decided now?
      • What are the worries about other sciences joining? Is it because of a scientific culture clash, or is it more pragmatic (like handling more data than we can)? At the moment, biology is welcoming fresh eyes from a variety of traditional fields like physics and applied mathematics, so it seems like limiting participation to biology only will be a fuzzy endeavor.
    • Are ethicists, policy-makers, science reporters, etc, included in our community?
    • There are currently some non-biology groups and users on the site. Do we reevaluate the eligibility of all current users on the site to ensure everyone fits into our community guidelines and remove those who don't?

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?
      • Is OWW only a resource for current researchers or is it also a vehicle to encourage new people to explore/participate in research?


  • 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?
      • Does OWW want to serve as a tool/resource to aid in the traditional publication process (i.e. post preliminary results, drafts, etc. with the aim that they will eventually lead to a publication in a journal), or does OWW want to promote a new publication model? The latter could mean that results and 'articles' posted and developed on OWW could serve as the end publication - one that can be read and commented, and ever perhaps edited by the whole community. Or maybe OWW is the apropriate place to discuss and figure out what an alternative publishing model is.
      • If we do this, are we responsible for figuring out how this may or may not impact publication of similar material in more traditional formats? i.e. Does OWW have a responsibility to its users to inform them of what publication/ownership rights they may be giving up by posting things on the site?


  • 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

OpenWetWare steering committee/SC retreat/Previous discussion

Draft OWW Goals & Mission

The goals of OWW are to support open research, education, publication, and discussion in biological sciences and engineering. We promote and support collaborations among researchers, students, and others who are working towards these goals.