ScholCommLab Co-director Goes Back to School: Open Innovation Leaders 2020

Stefanie Haustein was scrolling through her feed when she stumbled on it. A tweet from eLife Innovation promoting a program called “Open Innovation Leaders.” It promised design thinking, open communications, and sustainability—all with only a two hour per week time commitment. Intrigued, she clicked through.

A tweet promoting Innovation Leaders
This tweet inspired Stefanie Haustein to give Open Innovation Leaders a shot

Three months later, Stefanie is five weeks deep into what is fast becoming a favourite part of her work week. Designed to support “innovators developing prototypes or community projects to improve open science and research communication,” the eLife Innovation Program offers a mix of expert advice, presentations by guest speakers, collaborative workshopping, homework assignments, mentorship, and more.

“The idea stemmed from running the eLife Innovation Sprint, a collaborative hackathon where we bring together technologists and researchers to develop open prototypes for open science,” explains Emmy Tsang, eLife’s Innovation Community Manager and organizer of the Innovation Leaders program. “We saw so many creative ideas for tools to change the ways we do and share research, but most were not continued beyond the event.”

To help those creative ideas flourish, eLife started Innovation Leaders. “We want participants to feel empowered and prepared to lead their own open projects for open research,” says Emmy. “We thought about what achieving that would require—skills and training…, connections to people [who] can help…, funding opportunities—and we hope to provide all of those with the programme!”

Each week, the group meets via Zoom to discuss their projects and receive training in everything from problem definition to vision statement development. They also meet one-on-one with their mentors—researchers, programmers, and others who have volunteered to share their expertise with the innovators-in-training. All of the materials, notes, and even recordings of the calls are openly available so that others can learn from them too.

innovation leaders discuss projects in a collaborative meeting
The Open Innovation Leaders program uses group calls to inspire collaboration and idea exchange.

“Emmy is doing such a fantastic job of preparing everything,” says Stefanie. “We have guest speakers every week. There’s lots of content and all of the materials are open for anyone to reuse.” The assignments are very helpful, even if they are quite a bit of work. “I really like the whole setup of having weekly calls and doing a little homework to push yourself to move forward,” she says. “It almost feels like I’m back in school!”

But the best part of the program, Stefanie says, is the mentorship aspect. By a stroke of coincidence, she was paired with Lauren Maggio, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Uniformed Services University and a ScholCommLab collaborator.

“I meet with her every two weeks for half an hour to an hour, and I ping her in my notes document if I have a specific question and need feedback,” says Stefanie. “It’s really helpful.”

Screen Shot of Stefanie's open notebook for Innovation Leaders
Stefanie and her mentor discuss questions and ideas in an open notebook.

Stefanie sees Open Innovation Leaders as the perfect opportunity to make progress on the ScholCommLab’s Metrics Literacies project. The project team is working on developing open educational resources aimed at improving the understanding and appropriate use of scholarly metrics in academia.

“We’ll use different types of audiovisual media, like stop motion animation, podcasts, or even video games,” explains Stefanie. “Researchers who are already overwhelmed with keeping up with their own fields shouldn’t have to add to their long reading list. Instead, they could watch a fun five-minute video and know everything about the h-index.”

The research will involve aspects that are unfamiliar to Stefanie, so she’s grateful for the support. “I’m still an early career researcher, and Lauren is applying for full professorship now,” she says. “It’s really nice to have a senior scholar look over my shoulder and give me some advice.”

While there’s still a long way to go in the program, Stefanie is excited by what she’s learned so far. “All of the exercises that we’re doing during the calls and assignments help to shape the project in different ways,” she says. “For example, our team hadn’t thought about having a vision statement, because that’s not something that’s usually put into a research project, per se. But I think it’s really helpful.”

roadmap of metrics literacies
A roadmap of the next three months of the Metrics Literacies project, by Stefanie Haustein

Her latest assignment was to develop a roadmap, a path to understanding the problem and how she can solve it. “Looking at the project again and again, from different perspectives with different questions, is really making it better,” she says. “It feels more solid.”

As she moves into her sixth week in Open Innovation Leaders, Stefanie is already thinking about how she could use the strategies she’s developed in future projects. “I think the program offers a nice scaffolding to approach something new,” she says. “It’s a great way to move beyond the research and think about the bigger picture.”

To find out more about Open Innovation Leaders 2020, check out the program webpage or follow along at Stefanie’s open notebook