[22th to 30th of July 2013] OpenScience Week in San Francisco

My initial schedule was to spend a week in San Francisco. But it took me a few extra days to immerse myself with the dynamism of the bay Area in term of OpenScience and innovative spaces.

The schedule of the week was busy with 2 or 3 meetings per day, a presentation of HackYourPhD at Sudoroom (hackerspace in Oakland), a day in Berkeley and two in Palo Alto. I met many people from various backgrounds: researchers, students, entrepreneurs, artists, hackers. San Francisco is a city where you experiment, you try without fear of failure. I felt in love with this city three years ago, and I was not disappointed this second time.  In San Francisco, there are a lot of inspiring hybrid spaces. I met a lot of people in different places of the city : bars, cafes, parks, hackerspaces and undefined places … The different background sounds will give you the atmosphere. Here are some strong elements of these 10 days. More specific articles will come in a second time.

Thoughts about the future of academic and non-academic research

I met three major advocators of Open Access this week. I was glad to discuss with them and ask several questions about the future of research.

Cameron Neylon : the future of Open Access

Despite a long overseas trip, Cameron Neylon accepted to give two hours to HackYourPhD.  Cameron is the Director of Advocacy for PLOS, a non-profit Open Access Publisher created in 2001. We discussed the future of the Open Access model.  To familiarize yourself with Open Access: Here is a short article I wrote on EducPros about it (in french).

According to him, the current models « green » and « gold » will work on the short term. For the long term, there are new innovative infrastructures that will emerge. A point of particularly interest to me was the arrival of traditional Publisher on the market of Open Access.  Is there any « Open washing », meaning the promotion of Open Access for commercial purposes? According to Cameron Neylon, it is definitely the case. They adapt themselves to news uses to keep their market. But, this also means that Open Access is becoming the standard (norm and term) of scientific publication.

Here is the interview of Cameron Neylon that I recorded at Union Square ( with the bagpipes as a background sound).

Ethan Perlstein : What will be the researcher of the future?

A few weeks ago, I met Ethan Perlstein  at the opening of the new center BioTechAndBeyond. We planed to meet again in SF. Ethan is an independent researcher who also works as a consultant on a platform of scientific crowdfunding «  microryza » The discussion focused among others on the development of a new kind of research outside the academic world.
What will be the researcher of the future? According to Ethan, he will create a community around research, writing on a blog, while also sharing on twitter. Consulting and micropayment will be his business model. For Ethan, this researcher will be more than an independent scientist, he will be carried by a mission (a social goal) “mission driven scientist.”

William Gunn : Mendeley a junction between two worlds?

I Met William Gunn in a park not far from Embarcadero. William has been working for over 4 years with Mendeley. The startup has developed a bibliographic management tool for researchers with a collaborative space. Part of their mission includes providing additional evaluation metrics and analyzing it.  Open Science  helps to make more transparent the whole process of research with open data but also with new metrics called altmetrics. Today, scientists are primarily judged on the number of citation of their articles. Why not take into account other criteria? Mendeley works with universities to provide new criteria such as the number of items read by Mendeley users (or 1.9 million people).

Those who follow OpenScience News are certainly aware of a mini scandal related to Mendeley. The startup was acquired by Elsevier, a publisher, seen by many as an Evil Publisher. I asked to William Gunn the reason of this partnership. It would not be the financial aspect but rather a strategic choice. Elsevier would have convinced them of their sincerity to develop Open Access. Mendeley tries to bridge the gap between two worlds:  OpenScience vs traditional search system which lets a lot of people skeptical ..


Hackerspaces, Makerspaces, freespaces : spaces and atmospheres showing how diverse are communities here

Since the beginning of the trip, I visited many spaces calling themselves hackerspaces, makerspaces and freespaces. Each of them has its own identity defined by its community but they also have a few characteristics in common: communal spaces, open 24/7, 3D printers in a corner, free WiFi. Everyone can bring its own project or join and create a group already working on a particular topic. I met for example Kevin from Noisebridge. But each of these spaces have also their own special atmosphere, which makes them more makerspace or hackerspace. They take shape and find their model thanks to people using them.

Techshop : Makers Kingdom

Techshop is an impressive space regarding the quality and quantity of tools made available. It gives the possibility to everyone to create its own objects (“Do It Yourself” DIY): from its own bike to chocolate boxes. An important integration effort is made in order to engage a large audience thanks to the many classes for learning how to use the tools.


techshop : Boites pour chocolat DIY spéciale dédicace à Gayané Adourian

Techshop : DIY Chocolate boxes (special dedication to Gayané Adourian)

A diversity of hackerspaces in the SF Bay Area

Other spaces such as Noisebridge or Sudoroom leave more freedom, are more rough and “fiddle-friendly”. They invite each of us for experimenting and testing, following the hacker ideology.

Sudoroom is based in Oakland. It’s part of a larger space where people live and gather for organizing citizen movements, which enables spontaneous interaction with a very mixed audience.



Sudoroom: a familiar space for the daughter of an Amateur Radio operators (special dedication to F6AJW and F6AYK)

Hackerdojo gathers a more specialized audience. It is located in Mountain View, not far from Google. Space is more of a gigantic coworking space and is more software-oriented.

Unidentified Spaces

I’ve visited some other, quite astonishing, places such as Freespace. Located downtown San Francisco, premises are rented by a co-operative for a peppercorn rent corresponding, at first, to one month. Members settled in and built a real living space. This temporary location managed to sustain itself and survive for a month thanks to the every members contributing for the rent, that was this time truly exorbitant.


freespace  (spéciale dédicace à PhotonQuantique ;) )

freespace (special dedication to PhotonQuantique 😉 )

I also had the opportunity to leave for 5 days in a peculiar place : the MI7. Premises are hosting 3 startups at the same time and also the members. What a surrealistic time that was to live side by side with a 3D scanner !

For more pictures of these different places, check the is storify page i’ve made.

hackyourphd storify

Talking about OpenScience

This week, thanks to Matthew Senate once again, one of the cofounder of Sudoroom, i had he opportunity to present HackYourPhD.  At my presentation, the audience was quite varied : from researchers to “hackers” but also students were present.

OpenScience arouses attention because it allows an entry point into the research world. During the course of our discussions, i discovered that this guy was an ex postdoc from Berkeley, who had left the academic research for a job at Facebook… Other, still PhD students, had decided to start their own startup company.

For these dropouts, research was a quick experience that they didn’t particularly want to highlight. Yet, my discussions with Todd Huffman, founder of 3 Scan, and William Gunn suggest that some permeability in the boudaries between different worlds including the one of research was crucial, in particular to bring new skills and new perspectives that could potentially to research.

On the road again : Seattle, last step on the West coast

After more than 17 hours driving from San Francisco to Portland, the next stopping place is Seattle. Brian Glanz, with whom i’ve been in contact with for several months, has prepared an Open Science schedule for the week. The OpenScience HackNight, with several presentations including the one for HackYourPhD, will be on Thursday August 7th.

Thanks to Mathilde Berchon, Rodrigue Asseu and François Asperti-Boursin for their collaborative translation of this article from french to english.