Streamlining scientific collaborations

How one organization is rethinking scientific collaborations

2021-09-21 | Mehrzad

Streamlining scientific collaborations

At CorrelAid Netherlands we love meeting passionate people. We regularly plan meetups bringing people together to share ideas, learn something new, and inspire each other.

In September we had the opportunity to engage with Crowdfight. As an NGO that started at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grew to over 45.000 volunteers in just 2 years, they know how impactful the power of collaboration can be, and what is needed in order to make it work on a global scale. Their mission is to promote the advancement of science, its contribution to society, and the well-being of scientists. And they are aiming to change the way science and scientists work together.

Needless to say, this is an enormous challenge to take on, if you ask me. But again, with over 45.000 volunteers helping with this mission, things begin to happen. Their story reminds me of a famous quote from Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

We talked with Alfonso Pérez-Escudero (Co-founder at Crowdfight), Ana Morán (Core team at Crowdfight), and Alberto Pascual-García (Board Member at Crowdfight) about how they got started and what unique challenges they face to facilitate collaboration among scientists on a global scale.

Besides our community members who were as always present and eager to hear more, we had people from all walks of life tuning into the session, asking questions, and engaging in interesting conversations. It was fascinating to see how this subject matter was so appealing and well accepted by the audience.

Below are some of the takeaways from the talk. For the full conversation, check the recording on our YouTube channel.

One of the most interesting aspects was how Crowdfight got started. With the start of lockdown in March 2020, and everyone having to stay home, the team, together with many other scientists, wanted to help. And so they decided to set up a website. Everyone assumed after 2-3 days that they would eventually shut down the page because probably no one would respond.

Well, quite the opposite happened, as Ana Morántold us. They were astonished by the number of responses from the scientific community. Everyone wanted to help, and lots of people were asking for it! The testimony that Ana shared from one of the early volunteers was a great example of how things work in a perfect flow even when many unknown conditions are happening.

Alfonso mentioned the three main facts they knew when Crowdfight initially got attention from the beginning on:

  • Many people had the same idea.
  • We were not the right people to do this.
  • We were not ready.

The answers became obvious later:

  • The devil is in the details. The idea resonated with the people!
  • Focus was from the beginning on what people needed, and not on what we as a team were good at or able to do.
  • Start before you’re ready, and remember that finding demand is the hardest part of the challenge.

Alberto also told us about how in the beginning the questions were processed, and how the right matching took place (a hint: it was not the fancy AI or machine learning algorithms that made it work!)

And of course there were surprises along the way, and amazing journeys that unfolded when people came together to help each other. To hear the full conversation, visit our YouTube channel. Enjoy!


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Mehrzad

Mehrzad

Mehrzad is currently taking the challenge on of bringing the power of collaboration to the scientific world by building digital solutions based on AI and Data Science. He joined CorrelAid with the goal of making this blue planet a better place for everyone, helping NGOs harness the power of Data and Data Science. You can find him here.