TSL Status February 10, 2006

10 Feb
Published by gtaylor


general open research

It's been too long since my last status update. A lot has been accomplished.  


We Added the Schisto Community to our Pilot Site

Going from one research community to two research communities took quite a bit of redesigning. Since our goal is to ultimately be able to support any disease-focused open research, this was a very important step.  We iteratively worked in our development environment, prioritized changes and evolved to what we have now on our pilot site. Our current organizational approach will allow us to scale up to another 20 or so research communities without requiring additional enhancements and site redesign. Let's hope we can be so fortunate within the next year and that we use this time to gain more insights into the unique needs of open scientific collaboration.

I'd like to take this opportunity to give special thanks to Steve Maurer and Mat Todd for driving the new pilot site content and look and feel.  They wrote copy, and gave me feedback nearly every day for about a month.  David Sayed also made significant contributions, writing copy and correcting my grammatical errors.  These contributions made a big difference and I believe the pilot site is far better thanks to these people. 

  • More information on schistosomiasis
  • More information on the changes that took place as well as those still on the list is logged in this blog entry.

We Have More Industry Domain Advisors

My background is software and business.  Therefore naturally, my initial advisors have been heavily weighted with software and business people – it's who I know.  Fortunately, as we gain momentum, the pendulum is shifting.  I am now getting lots of input and advice from biomedical experts.  This is critical.  The following people are experts in the biomedical field, believe in our mission, and have agreed to continue to guide us in the right direction:

Scientific Advisors in alphabetical order
Biomedical Intellectual Property and Legal Experts in alphabetical order:

These people have been added to our about page.  Given our growing list of biomedical industry experts, I have decided to remove most of the more general advisors from our about page; it was simply too overwhelming with all the biomedical experts and all the business experts.  When appropriate, I will continue to seek advice and assistance from my more general advisors and volunteers and will continue to recognize their contributions in my status notes. I sincerely hope that nobody feels slighted. 

We Have Our Founding Board of Directors

The operational activities of The Synaptic Leap require web portal software experience.  Our customers/users are scientists.  Therefore, my goal is to ensure that the board is composed of an appropriate mix of biomedical backgrounds (~50-70%) with software application industry / IT experience (~30-50%).   Our initial mix is 50/50:

I am extremely pleased with the caliber of people who have accepted and am grateful for their commitments.  We hope to add another 1-3 more board members during the year.  In the mean time, we need to focus on activities required to get our 501(c)(3) status from the IRS so that we can begin fundraising.

Launch Strategy

Steve Maurer, Scott Merkle, David Sayed and myself took some time off from the Christmas holidays to meet and discuss our launch strategy.  We decided to hold off on a press release until 1) the site was more usable (hopefully we're there now) and 2) we have more scientists actively engaged in open source research on the site. We were fortunate enough to obtain access to a market study for a similar enough venture.  This study recommended that we use word-of-mouth / viral marketing techniques (e.g. conference and lab presentations) to grow our community.  This approach to reaching scientists was confirmed as being effective by two of our scientific advisors.  Therefore Steve Maurer has agreed to start the campaign by talking to the research lab at Berkeley and Mat Todd is also planning to speak about our objectives at ICOPA in Glasgow this summer.   My longer-term goal is to provide the infrastructure for the scientists leading an open source research project to create a pod cast describing their work.  The aim is to enable them to spread the word.

Future Action Items

Consolidate Web Sites

As of today, we currently have two web sites – our main site which is really just a blog, and our pilot which is a more robust community.  Unfortunately, our main site is the one out of date.  Yes, even this status note is going to be posted on the pilot site.  My goal is to move all the content on the /malaria site up to the main url.  Unfortunately, this will be disruptive – RSS feeds will need to be redirected and links will need to be checked and often reconfigured.   We may loose a few readers along the way.  It's best to do it sooner rather than later.  But I also need to plan the steps carefully to minimize our system down time.  I have drafted an outline of the steps and have run it by Rich Manalang our technical advisor.  All appears to be in order, it's just a matter of finding the time given competing priorities to do it.

Hold our First Board of Directors Meetings

I'm in the process of writing our Board Member prospectus and plan to send that out along with an agenda.  Things at the top of my list for us to go over:

  • finalize board members roles and responsibilities and our bylaws
  • finalize who's serving what role
  • discuss operational objectives for TSL
  • discuss our budget
  • discuss our fundraising program
  • identify board member gaps – do we need to recruit more members immediately, or can it wait a bit longer while we focus on executing other immediate tasks

As Always

Gather feedback from the scientists to rank and prioritize our web site improvements.

General Feelings

We frequently have 30 users concurrently browsing our new pilot site and I've seen it up as high as 60 users.  Given our lack of formal marketing, I'm quite encouraged.  People are definitely interested in what we are doing.  Our next step is to get them off the sidelines and participating…