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Guidelines to foster fruitful interactions between research institution and civil society (including hacker/maker communities)  v 1.1[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

           INTRODUCTION[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The process of research may involve multiple stakeholders, including actors of the civil society. Integrating heterogenous contributors to the ESR ecology requires a shift in epistemological and social frameworks to make scientific contributions more distributed, collaborative and truly accessible while preserving the quality and standards of scientific knowledge. This 1.1 version is a first attempt to capitalize on the hacker/maker experience to write guidelines for successful interactions with research institutions which may be useful to a broader spectrum of actors of the civil society. It is embedded in a dynamics which started in 2018. 

On July 2018, ESOF (Euroscience Open Forum), took place in Toulouse. ESOF is a big interdisciplinary science meeting organized every two years in Europe. It is dedicated to scientific research and innovation and gathers scientists, policymakers, business people, students, journalists. More than plenary conferences, several sessions are organized in parallel according to different tracks (scientific, careers, business programmes).

We proposed a session entitled “Soft hacking Science: Learning from success and failure at the intersection between research and hacker / maker culture”, together with other organizations: HackYourPhD, Epidemium, La Paillasse, DIY Science Podcast, Institut Pasteur, Vulca European Program, RFFLabs.

At the end of the session, we decided to summarize our exchange in the form of guidelines to foster interactions between hacker/maker culture and research institutions.

This document is named  « Guidelines to foster fruitful interactions between institutions and ccommunities » and referred below to the document as « V1.0 »

On july 2019, a thematic school (Ecole thématique « LA RECHERCHE ACTION PARTICIPATIVE AU CŒUR DES SCIENCES EN SOCIÉTÉ » held by GDR PARCS ( ) took place in Mèze, 1-5 juillet 2019) . During this training program, a focus group had been organised by two members of the Laboratoire interdisciplinaire Sciences innovation sociétés (LISIS) and of La Paillasse to gather more insight into interactions of scientists and actors of the civil society during participatory action research programs. The V1.0 of the guidelines were provided to the participants. The notes from this 3 hours workshop were collected  and used to produce the 1.1 version of this document which has the ambition to broaden the scope of the 1.0 version to a more diverse spectrum of civil society actors.

We do not intend to speak for all  civil society or research institutions  involved in citizen sciences but we feel compelled to share a vision of interactions between sciences and society founded on our diverse experiences.  We have been implementing open scientific practices, promoting collaboration between structures and disciplines in our everyday work and in our organizations and institutions.

As a consequence of the enlargement of the scope of this V1.1 document, the concepts have to be considered widely. For example, the word “communities”  stands for “hacker communities and any other civil society actors such as NGOs and communities” and that of “institutions” for “public organizations and private industrial firms”.  In addition, the types of interactions have to be considered by large, and include diverse processes and objectives such as hacking and citizen sciences. Finally, citizen sciences has no consensual definition. We will return here the one proposed by  to Haklay (2013) when he refers to “ read with respect to the level of cognitive engagement and type of contribution...”  Hecker “...  from problem choice to the interpretation of results...” and Houllier[1] (2016, our translation) who characterized them  by the active and deliberate participation of "non-scientific-professional actors". This loose definition reflects a great diversity in the forms of organization and the actors involved, the objectives and epistemic practices, the processes and categories of knowledge produced.

We hope that these guidelines will foster and be useful to collaborations between actors from any worlds interested in fruitful interactions over knowledge production and circulation.

WHAT’S in the relationship for each of us?[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

For some participants to the workshop, cooperation refers to the participation of somebody (with one or several individuals) to a common action. Collaboration may imply hierarchical forms of relationships.  

For communities:[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

collaborating with institutions can expand your perimeter of action and bring you knowledge, methods, tools and funding, that will afford you greater ambitions and continuity. Even if the institution’s timing and inertia can be seen as  limiting, remember that their rules, norms and procedures have been built over time and are efficient and secure. Learning to deal with their codes and realities in a context where they are also open to deal with yours can lead to fruitful partnerships.

For institutions: [modifier | modifier le wikicode]

taking a “walk on the wild side” or « out of the lab » may help you to reassess the users’approaches to a problem and lead you beyond crowd sourcing to a more effective relationship with civil society, or give you the opportunity to participate in more open and less expected collaborations. If quality standards, replicability, and time invested seem to be an issue when thinking of collaborating with communities, remember that “Test it / Fail it / Fix it” approach could help you cover a larger surface of ideas, and provide you with feedback from experiental knowledge. Moreover, if the use of digital technologies and other transformations challenge your organization or your practices, communities can be the ideal risk-taking partners to help you probe new and innovative practices.

TAKE-HOME MESSAGES[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

TO COMMUNITIES[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Define and explain your modus operandi for a trusting relationship:[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

·     Consider working with institutions as partners. You have to be considered as new stakeholders with needs of legal and economic acknowledgment.  

·     Consider institutions as gold partners. Messing with one can be a dead end experience for a whole sector to work with yours but also other community on a long period of time. Tip: institutions talks to one others.

·     Accept that the institutions have other ways of organizing, making decisions, accept it as a fact without judging and trying to change it BUT communicate clearly about your differences – do not assume they already understand how your community works, or that you know how they work.

·     Define precisely your role and expected outcomes: Institutionnal partners NEED to understand exactly what you are doing.  “Everything” is no good answer considering their classical industrial partners. When appropriate, explain how you will control the quality of your productions (ex:  External reference, setting up scientific committee…) .

·     Place your own cursor. Do not compromise your project values.  Do not compromise outreach gained through collaboration.

·     Explain the governance of your community. Collaborative management and collective decision making processes are often very different from “classical” governance. Help them to understand that community and people is the priority and run a community is very different from running organizations. .

·     Keeping your independence may be a priority. Having multiple type or sources of partners/fundings is a solution. Tip: “Be a part of it but don’t belong to it”

·      Clarify with your community the common goals and values you want to defend within the project. Consider creating levels of implication depending on time ressource of each and options to make it evolve (both ways). Tip : «Implication » doesn’t mean the same for everyone.

·     Publicize the advantages of the collaboration to other members of your community (any type : time, ressource to the project) :  thanks gift author,  communicate loudly and make it visible (timebank, table of contributor, salad bowl with marbles...), praise the collaboration again.

Formalize and create a legal framework:[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

·     Building a common culture is a long process which may lead to a common project. You will have to share vision, research question, program design, evaluation, expertise…..

·     Formalize your collaboration standards (by partnerships) after openly discussing them within your community. Interrogations are on both sides. Explain your “red lines” to your partner and the reasons behind (it’s better if you have already acquired some confidence from them).  Don’t forget you will (probably) have to make compromises.

·     Ask for a contract/or agreement or propose one. Tip: Some ideas here.  

·     Read it and make revisions until acceptable on both partners side (It is a common and normal procedure) . At first glance, the first version of the contract may not benefit your community but your partner is (probably) no evil and should accept revisions .  Ask why a clause is present. Tip: Be extra cautious with intellectual property. “Open washing” is around my friend, and legal instruments exist to defend your independence.

·     Work using a Creative Commons Licence. You will engage more partners at the end. Extensive examples of big companies successfully implementing open approaches can be found. Discuss intellectual Property from the beginning and give precise examples of outcomes. Precisely define terms and words in formal documents as their might recover (really) different realities for your and your partners (try to define « open» for some fun).

·     Participatory approach, openness and associations are also subject to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in EU and other state laws elsewhere. Be cautious to take precise information on any data gathering  management (name, pictures, random data)

·     You can envision to cocreate everything : Vision, research question, program design, evaluation, expertise... but remind that evey individual will have different visions of their own implication

·     Listen and be flexible. For example, consider « business functions » and hierarchical position with respect (particularly if you start a partnership) but deconstruct it. Tip : « Institutionals » drinks and plays too.

·     Precise you role and perimeters as a partner from the beginning (including participation to vision definition and project governance) and formalise documents. Create conflict regulation instances. Tip : clearly expressing red lines asap helps you and your partner.

·     Formalise dedicated time and spaces for discussing different aspects of the project. Tip : learly expressing red lines asap helps you and your partner.

Ask the annoying questions (money!)  to create a sustainable framework:[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

·     Consider financial aspects of the project from the beginning within the community and with the partners. Bringing money concerns in communities is always an issue. Postponing serious discussions about it can sometimes compromise a project.   Clarify money amount and precise its use with your community before, during and after the project.

·     Care about financial sustainability. First years strict benevolent motivation are sometimes hard to maintain. Burnouts are very common. Think about who is doing the work, who is getting paid, and who benefits. Since they are used to collaborate with industrial partners, academic employees often don’t take into account the factthat civil society collaborators (whether benevolent or employees of small organisations) cannot afford to spend too much time in meetings and so on. . Take time to clarify this and be patient.

·     Be careful with volunteership or pro-bono work as you will create expectations that the work can be done for free – even if you can afford this, other might not be able to.

·     Maintain proper bank accounts: as soon as possible hire a professional accountant, it will help your project being consistent and understandable for you (sometimes) and your partners.

·     Document practices and think about the transition to others and extensively discuss it.

Experiment, iterate, communicate:[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

·     Start it small and practical: partnerships and money do not fix everything. Do what you are the best at doing: flexibility and adaptation.

·     Test your own experimental solutions to problems you encounter.

·     Publish and publicize your work and feedback (when possible)

·     Again:  Think about people and community first !

·     Integrate the institutions’ goals of durability and security and ensure the hierarchy of institutions that they could be respected: start small as an experiment, then after a proof of concept you will be able to formalize it.

·     Express positive attitude during any communications (reflective listening , non violent communication...)

·     Use your iterative approach to reflect regularly about your priorities and if your values are respected first: don’t hesitate to change and keep your fluidity

TO INSTITUTIONS[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Be curious:[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

·     Consider working with communities as partners who need ressources (fundings, equipement, staff...) and acknowledgement  and are not only a bunch of volunteers.

·     Consider also their specificities: communities background can be very different than yours, this is why you came to them and what can make a good partnership.

·     Consider communities as gold partners: messing with one can be a bad experience and sometime prevent you from developing other “classical” partnerships or collaborations. Tips: communities talks to one others and are already linked to your organization by friends , relatives as suppliers/clients/prospects/evaluation institutions.

Create a legal and economic framework:[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

·     Communities do not work for free. When appropriate, discuss with them how  to gratify their collaboration to the research process. Most communities don’t want to be considered as service providers and small organisations cannot often afford to spare time . Dare to be creative together Tip: Investing short ressources + having great expectations on a short period of time is a bad bet.

·     Consider communities collaboration standards (and discuss it with them). Most of them will want to work open source. If you have intellectual property culture, question it. For example, pharma companies nowadays accept working open source so a “without patent , no development” argument won’t be consistent.

·     Openly discuss your legal norms and create/adapt a smaller perimeter in which it is possible to work openly. There is always a way to exchange even with risk and juridical department.

·     Clarify objectives, roles and perimeter of action of each partner from the beginning, co-define gouvernance (including conflict regulation instances) to discuss it along the project and be open  if discomfort is expressed.

Define a temporality and a perimeter of action:[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

·     Define an intervention perimeter to be secure because it is sometimes hard to see how communities work compared to your habits and classical partners.

·     Plan your interactions step by step. I.e. Step 1: Informal partnership (Interventions, meetings) / Step 2: Formalise partnership (co organizing events, small projects) / Step 3: Structure partnership (propose to dedicate collaborators time…).

·     Involve your partners as soon as possible. Before the call for project or very early in the redaction phase ) as it is mandatory to build mutual confidence and comprehension. If you want to imply citizen, find « on the field » partners  .

·     Define together the perimeter of the co creation process : Research question, program design, evaluation, expertise, publication and other deliverables... or all of that : results will be much more interesting than if you take a « Client » posture. In a word : « Decompartmentalize”

·     Precisely define terms and words in formal documents as their might recover (really) different realites for your and your partners (try to define « open» for some fun).

Create specific interactions for collaboration:[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

·     Dedicate space, time and regularity to make your partnership evolve. Build your own good practices and iterate.

·     Act positively as you would do with a classical industrial/research partner: quote their job , ask if collaboration should be publicized and how. Many communities are connected  with juridic help  

·     Be patient and proactive. Consider dedicating a specific person (different from project supervisor) who has time to provide help in exchange and follow up of the partnership.  An individual already connected with the community would be a good option.

·     Express positive attitude during any communications (reflective listening , non violent communication...)

CONCLUSION[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

One should keep in mind that categories like “institutions” and “communities ” don’t have hard boundaries, and you might find yourself simultaneously at both ends. Those categories are, however, useful to formalize these guidelines, and even if your organization finds itself somewhere in-between, the exercise of putting these guidelines into practice shall make it clear what works for you. Everybody is encouraged to comment and propose modifications to these guidelines!

As institutions and communities, in their diversities, open more paths for partnerships, and as those mature, with both sides reaching useful outcomes for each other and for society at large, we hope that this division will evolve towards mixed postures of “citizen researcher”. Open communities of students, hackers, associations, small companies and can be a tremendous force for major research advances. Let’s start expanding this common ground together!

Licensing and attribution[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

This text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. Attribution in random order:

Contributors to V1.0[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Lucy Paterson, @Lu_cyP: @SHD_Berlin co-organiser & @diyscipodcast co-host  

Marc Fournier: @La Paillasse Co-founder

Olivier de Fresnoye:  @Epidemium_cc Program coordinator

Clémentine Schilte: Project Manager at @Pasteur_CRT (Center for Translational Research)

Matei Gheorghiu:  Scientific committee of Réseau Français des FabLabs @fablab_fr

Alexandre Rousselet: Vulca European Mobility Program Coordinator @ProgramVulca

HackYourPhD members: @HackYourPhD

Contributors to V1.1 : RAP thematic School in random order[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Benjamin Cartron : @Singulier pluriel Codirector

Mia Schmallenbach : @LPO Belgium and Co create projet

Maëlle Van der Linden  : @CoCreate Belgium WIM project Research assistant

Laurent Marchéder : @INRA Engineer

Evelyne Lhoste @LISIS Senior scientist

Charlotte Coquard : Mission Leader @Sciences Citoyennes

Lisa Auquier : @CoCreate Belgium  WIM Project Mission Energy & Ressources

Marc Fournier: @La Paillasse Co-founder

Delphine Gambaiani : @EPHE/CESTMed Trainee

Xavier Hulhoven @Innoviris @CoCreate Creator

(please help mention any other present missed here !)

[1]          François Houllier and others, ‘Les Sciences Participatives En France’, État Des Lieux, Bonnes Pratiques et Recommandations. Rapport Élaboré à La Demande Des Ministres En Charge de l’Éducation Nationale, de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de La Recherche, Doi, 10.1.4606201248693647 (2016), E12.