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Join the eLife Innovation Sprint 2020

What is the eLife Innovation Sprint?

A two-day collaborative gathering for a diverse community: together, harnessing cutting-edge technology to prototype new ways to do and share research.

We are moving this year’s eLife Innovation Sprint online. It will take place September 2–3. 

The event will be different from when we’ve previously held it in person, but we see this as a new opportunity to innovate and experiment with ways to collaborate and connect better online, and to invite newcomers, who may not have been able to join us in-person, into the community.

We invite the Sprint community to help shape this online Sprint. Please contact us at innovation [at]  

Sprint 19 participant presenting at the end

Who will be at the Sprint?

The eLife Innovation Sprint is open to anyone who is interested in using open technology to redefine the ways we do and share science. Participants are mostly:

  • Leaders of and contributors to open technology projects for open science, scholarly communication and improving research culture
  • Researchers who are passionate about how research is done and communicated
  • Research software engineers developing open research tools
  • Developers, designers, product experts and technologists working with open initiatives, including open access, data, metadata, and publishing
  • Researchers and data scientists in computer science and digital humanities who are enthusiastic about knowledge dissemination
  • Like-minded community members concerned with issues regarding open education, diversity and inclusion, open-source, mentorship, fair funding, mental health, etc.
  • Policymakers and community managers in the open science and research culture ecosystems
  • Members of the eLife community, e.g. Community Ambassadors and Innovation Leaders

We welcome newcomers to the open science, research culture and communication space! Fresh perspectives are very important and powerful.

What role(s) will I play at the Sprint?

You will work on projects and share your experience and knowledge with other Sprinters! We envision the following roles:

  • Project leads: propose a project, lead the group, direct discussions and manage the team and the project
  • Technical contributors: help turn ideas into code!
  • Expert consultants: skilled in certain areas (e.g. UX, product, policy, marketing) and ready to contribute to and be consulted by multiple projects
  • Communicators: in charge of documenting and communicating project progress during the event, and reaching out to all participants for feedback and input when appropriate
  • Prospective users/testers: have domain knowledge and are ready to help with user testing or be interviewed for multiple projects
  • Mentors: experienced Sprinters and community members who will help guide and onboard newcomers to the event

We value non-code contributions as much as code – documentation, domain knowledge, community engagement and user feedback are all crucial for the success of an open technical project. 

You can play multiple roles, depending on your interest.

What kind of projects can I lead/work on?

Update April 27, 2020: We no longer accept project proposals – please see our list of 15 accepted projects.


Themes are a way to focus the Sprint’s project proposals. These will help us evaluate proposals and create an event that fits community goals and objectives. 

We welcome projects that address at least one of the following themes:

  1. Support reproducibility in research
  2. Reform research evaluation practices
  3. Promote diversity and inclusion in research
  4. Improve publishing practices, e.g. preprints, equitable access and discovery
  5. Facilitate research collaborations
  6. Create a healthy research environment, e.g. mentoring, mental health
  7. Encourage transparent and constructive peer review

You will be asked to indicate the theme(s) of your proposal on our submission form. 

Project requirements

The main output of projects should be technical, i.e. software, an app, a database, a website, etc. We value tangible and measurable outputs from the event, and find that this is easier to achieve with technical products.

What if my idea does not yield a technical solution? Please consider applying to one of the following events with a hackathon session:

Any other events that we could feature on this list? Please contact us to let us know!

Projects must be open-source. Openness is a core value at eLife and the Sprint, and we would like output from the Sprint to be reused and built upon. All output must use either an Open Source License or a Creative Commons License

Projects should have had little or no prior development. We think that the Sprint adds the most value to nascent projects, although if you can demonstrate how the event can add value to a mature project, we would be happy to consider your proposal!

Projects may be submitted by a team. We encourage groups of up to three people to apply together to work on their project. 

Some past Sprint projects

We hope that the Sprint is the start of a long road for the projects. In the past, the eLife Innovation Initiative and other funders have further supported prototypes developed at the Sprint.

  • Plaudit is a widget that allows open, light-weight endorsement of published research, by linking the endorser’s ORCIDs with the article’s DOI. The Plaudit prototype was first developed at the 2018 Sprint, which helped the project secure funding and support from eLife Innovation and the Centre for Open Science. The initial version was launched in March 2019. 
  • Octopus is a modular, collaborative, open publishing system incubated at the 2018 Sprint. Since then, a partnership has been set up with the UK Reproducibility Network, and project lead Alex Freeman has also won a pitch competition for ideas to improve research culture run by the UK’s Royal Society.
  • Hidden Gem is a tool to shine a light on low-visibility preprints in biology. During the 2019 Sprint, the team came up with a ‘shadow index’ for visibility, based on the number of early views of a preprint’s abstract. 

See summaries of Sprint 2018 and 2019 projects. 

The application process

We no longer accept project proposals – thank you to all who submitted.

We invite you to read our list of accepted project proposals and to submit a general application between April 27 and May 24 June 7. 

All general applications will be evaluated between June 7 and July 3. We hope to communicate decisions (invited, unable to accept) with all participants in the week beginning July 6 – all invited participants will be given one week to confirm their places.  

Submissions/applications evaluation

The Sprint community will help review the general applications according to the following criteria:

  • Your interest: to what extent does the applicant show interest and drive to participate in and contribute to the event, its projects and its community?
  • Your goals: to what extent will the applicant benefit from participating in the Sprint?
  • Your skills and experience: to what extent does the applicant demonstrate skills and experience that are needed by the projects and event?
  • Willingness to collaborate and learn: to what extent does the applicant show open-mindedness and readiness to share, learn and work with others from diverse backgrounds?

Diversity, accessibility and inclusion

Supporting your participation

We are keen to explore and discuss ways to support your remote participation in the online eLife Sprint. Please let us know of your needs in the appropriate box on the application form, or email innovation [at] elifesciences [dot] org.


We will recruit more experienced Sprint participants and community members to help mentor and onboard newcomers to the event and its community. You will be able to volunteer to mentor or request mentoring on your application form. 

Language and platform

The event, as well as all communications and outputs, will be in English.

We are in the process of deciding on the technical platforms on which the Sprint will run. We will consider their accessibility, data privacy, capacities and ease of use, and will communicate these decisions and relevant instructions and guidelines as soon as possible.