HomeDNAThe Hybrid Hackathons of the Future - now with Librarians!

The Hybrid Hackathons of the Future – now with Librarians!


Hannah Gunderman, Knowledge, Gaming, and Fashionable Tradition Librarian, Carnegie Mellon College Libraries

Ben Busby, Director, Resolution Science and Principal Scientist, DNAnexus


With the world nonetheless reckoning with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, one factor that has remained fixed is the necessity to change how folks collaborate and talk concepts, usually shifting to distant and digital codecs.  The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the speed at which hackathons are hosted in a digital format. Distant hackathons have the potential to reflect the personally and professionally remodeling experiences conveyed by in-person occasions to those that cannot journey on account of monetary, bodily, or environmental constraints. Distant hackathons enable the mental wealth of scientists in these international locations to be utilized to the necessary matters and objectives of the hackathon, whereas supporting their well being and security via digital participation. We hope that hackathons will retain a hybrid mannequin to maximise the scientific contributions of each in-person and distant members. 

Why are hackathons necessary?

Hackathons enable for concentrated, targeted effort on a activity or aim by bringing collectively scientific specialists in a specific self-discipline, reminiscent of structural variants, or united by a standard aim, reminiscent of ending neurofibromatosis.  Some hackathons clear up thorny issues, make life simpler for practitioners of particular disciplines, or push the boundaries of what a specific scientific area can do.  That mentioned, hackathons not solely produce content material (normally software program), however ideally additionally actively facilitate training and networking. Those that take part usually have professionally transformative experiences that may result in a wider scientific community, job alternatives, and elevated confidence of their coding and analysis expertise. 

Hackathons largely observe the mannequin of “disruptive innovation” by serving as a prototyping layer throughout scientific organizations, producing new concepts and applied sciences that the group can then assess for worth of their bigger objectives and initiatives. The prototypes that emerge both push the envelope of what’s doable with biomedical informatics, or make day-to-day bioinformatics simpler.  Whereas the code isn’t essentially persistent, these proof-of-concepts are meant for the group to construct upon. Hackathons foster an atmosphere with “buzz,” an financial geography idea referring to the serendipitous sharing of artistic concepts that occurs when folks interact in face-to-face interactions. The final 12 months has taught us that these advantages from hackathons are additionally afforded via hybrid or fully-remote codecs, offering hope for a constructive way forward for hybrid hackathons in scientific development and discovery. 

How do hackathons profit the members?

Not solely do hackathons have an simple profit to the broader scientific group, however, in addition they can present transformative and impactful experiences for the members themselves. These experiences largely revolve across the areas of confidence-building, instructional growth, and camaraderie. 

As described earlier, the “buzz” created in hackathon environments helps advance the sharing of artistic and progressive concepts. By means of this trade of concepts, members can advance their journeys in computational problem-solving and fashionable software program growth strategies. Within the bioinformatics area, there are a lot of newbie knowledge scientists who’re nonetheless studying foundational expertise in computation and scientific collaboration. Hackathons, whether or not distant or in-person, provide a concentrated area for newbie knowledge scientists to advance their expertise in each of those areas alongside extra established bioinformatics researchers. Not solely does this afford instructional advantages to those members, however it could possibly additionally improve their confidence as scientists who can contribute to necessary analysis endeavours. 

Lastly, hackathons additionally create the chance for members to forge shut private friendships and bonds, which might result in long-term collaborations and network-building. 

Individuals usually discover themselves in intensely difficult and time-limited environments as they race to perform the objectives of the hackathon, and going via these transformative experiences collectively can result in sturdy friendships and connections that span past the bounds of the hackathon itself. This isn’t restricted to in-person hackathons, nonetheless: video-conferencing software program reminiscent of Zoom and collaborative instruments reminiscent of Slack enable members to work together with one another and construct each interpersonal {and professional} connections. 

A Retrospective Look Into CMU-DNAnexus Digital “Genomic Knowledge to the Clinic” Hackathon

The CMU-DNAnexus Digital “Genomic Knowledge to the Clinic” Hackathon (June 1st – June 4th 2021) was targeted on bringing complicated genomic knowledge into the clinic.  Particularly, we targeted on integrating Expressed Variants, Polygenic Threat Scores, Structural Variants and T-Cell Receptors into an Digital Medical Document readable format utilizing OMOP and labored on a clinically presentable interface. Distant assist was provided by librarians from Carnegie Mellon College Libraries who’ve specialties in knowledge administration, bioinformatics, and knowledge sciences. This assist included collating necessary sources discovered by hackathon members (reminiscent of instruments, software program, literature, and so on.) right into a single spreadsheet for straightforward entry, reviewing the hackathon manuscript for syntax and readability, and getting ready the manuscript for submission to BioHackrXiv. Communication platforms reminiscent of Zoom and Slack can provide methods to remain in contact and facilitate collaboration throughout a distant hackathon, however info can nonetheless get misplaced in translation in environments the place we are able to’t see one another face-to-face. Librarians are educated within the info sciences and well-positioned to help in conserving info organized and accessible throughout a distant or hybrid hackathon. 

Individuals not solely successfully used on-line collaboration instruments to create progressive workflows and deliverables supporting the objectives of the hackathon, but in addition used instruments reminiscent of Slack to develop interpersonal friendships. A lot of the identical dynamic vitality and “buzz” felt throughout an in-person hackathon was additionally felt on this digital area and the expertise has already led to some promising future collaborations and scientific endeavors, together with an accepted proposal for a presentation on the 2021 annual assembly of the American Society of Human Genetics that can share the scientific findings from this hackathon. 

Upcoming hybrid hackatons

Though the pandemic is experiencing a protracted tail, we are able to nonetheless start to ascertain what our post-pandemic future could seem like, taking the teachings we have now discovered from navigating our distant atmosphere for the previous a number of months. One of many classes we are able to convey right into a post-pandemic future is that hackathons with a digital choice may help us create extra equitable and numerous mental areas for tackling probably the most urgent points we face in bioinformatics. Transferring ahead, hackathons ought to take a hybrid mannequin and permit for each in-person and distant participation, whereas permitting extra staff leads the sequestration they should totally focus their energies on these efforts as an alternative of juggling each work and the hackathon.

Additional, leveraging the assist of librarians within the hackathon area can result in a extra organized, cohesive, and collaborative expertise for members. That is significantly true for totally distant or hybrid hackathons, the place clear communication channels are essential for all members. Librarians may help facilitate collaboration and coordination between distant and in-person members, and assist collate sources (reminiscent of instruments, software program, and literature) discovered through the course of the hackathon.  

We’re excited to see what the way forward for hybrid hackathons holds for our area at massive, and the scientific discoveries that can end result from these occasions.  Beneath are some upcoming hackathons you possibly can observe or get entangled in!

Every little thing is larger in Texas: Pan-Structural Variation hackathon within the Cloud! 

October 10-13, 2021, hosted by the Baylor Faculty of Drugs

BioHackathon Europe

November 8-12, 2021, hosted by ELIXIR Europe

CMU-DNAnexus Hybrid “Genomic Knowledge to the Clinic” Hackathon

March September 11, 2022, hosted by CMU Libraries (keep tuned for extra particulars!)

We additionally advocate maintaining a tally of future occasions and initiatives hosted by the DEMON community, a global community for making use of knowledge science and AI to dementia!

Control this hyperlink for extra details about these and different occasions: https://biohackathons.github.io 



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