Thomson Reuters’ EndNote became the first global sponsor of Science Hack Day, a grassroots movement to foster scientific innovation through “hacks,” or science-based solutions that are turned into prototypes. Its mission is to “get excited and make things with science.”
Science Hack Day brings together scientists, engineers, programmers, and designers during a 48-hour period to engage in scientific creation. Since 2010, there have been more than 30 Science Hack Days across more than a dozen countries.
“Science Hack Day is inherently about mashing up ideas, mediums, industries and people to create spark for future ideas, collaborations and inspirations,” says Ariel Waldman, Science Hack Day’s global director. “Science should be disruptively accessible. Science Hack Day empowers people from a variety of backgrounds to explore, participate in and build new ways of interacting with and contributing to science.”
Funding for the events used to come from regional sponsorships and donations. With EndNote’s marketing support and funding, the movement can gain greater visibility and grow to include more cities and more people.
The partnership with Thomson Reuters “seemed to be a really great fit between wanting to encourage people to use science out in the open and encouraging both early-career scientists and people from all over to engage in doing science creatively,” says Waldman. “It’s just started but it’s been really amazing to get support for a lot of these different events.” Because Thomson Reuters can help Science Hack Day organizers with promotion, “it really gives them a platform to sort of jump off of.”
Amanda Addis, general manager of EndNote, enjoys seeing the creativity that Science Hack Days inspire. “We work with intelligent information on a daily basis and see what kinds of astonishing things can happen when people from varied disciplines are able to collaborate, brainstorm and build,” she says.
Doing More With Open Science
Waldman gave a talk about open science at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in 2010, where she noted that “there’s a lot of open science data and information that’s kind of already out there, so the issue isn’t necessarily opening up more science, although that’s always a good thing.” Instead, she wanted scientists to use the open science that was already available. Web developer Jeremy Keith heard her speech and got the idea for what would become Science Hack Day.
Keith held the first event in London in 2010, and then Waldman organized the first U.S. Science Hack Day in San Francisco later that year. After that, “it slowly but surely started percolating into cities around the world,” says Waldman. She became the “global instigator” of the movement and now helps worldwide organizers develop their own Science Hack Days. She also continues to run the San Francisco event, which will be held in October this year.
Waldman says that her favorite part of the events she’s attended so far has been not only seeing people who are new to the sciences interact with experienced members of the field, “but also having scientists equally learn new tricks and techniques and learn from the attendees who also have no science background.” According to Waldman, the breakdown at the San Francisco event is typically 33% technologists/web developers, 20% scientists, and 20% designers; the remaining 27% are writers, lawyers, roboticists, and other nonscientists.
A Day in the Life of a Science Hacker
Attendees gather at Science Hack Day to spend 24 hours collaborating on hacks. On Saturday morning, the organizers welcome the participants and give a series of talks on areas of science, including geophysics, biotech, and neuroscience, “to give people an idea of a bunch of different data from different disciplines that we have that they could play with, and to inspire people who may otherwise feel a bit blank in the morning,” says Waldman.