Key aspects of the CRI Collaboratory

CRI catalyses research on subjects at the interfaces between life sciences, learning science and computer science. These subjects are vast, but also increasingly interconnected. Many scientific institutions are working on some combination of them, but are generally not able to focus on the questions that arise at the boundaries.

CRI is a place where researchers can remix, recombine, crossfertalize and ultimately pursue ideas that cannot be boxed into a single field. With interdisciplinarity not just in in its name but also deeply and fundamentally rooted in its scientific and educational culture, CRI stands out as an institution where research connecting life, learning, and computer sciences can be most effectively conducted.

CRI strongly encourages the culture of openness and broad personal involvement on all levels and in all contexts. This ethos includes the transparency in the internal workings of the organisation, insistence on open publication and open data, but also participative science via Citizen science projects, dry and wet Open Labs, and science communication and popularisation via the MOOC factory.

All these principles and efforts, rarely present in the same structure, give CRI fellows broadest possible support group, collaborator base, and active audience, while enabling all stakeholders to fully benefit from current and future innovative ways of doing science.

CRI provides state of the art physical space, technical platforms, a broad pool of external expertise network and project support, all of which combined will directly minimise the time required to pass from conception to testing and prototyping.

CRI labs facilities include: a wet lab for systems and synthetic biology, a strong computational support, a GameLab to develop games for research and teaching, a MakerSpace to prototype digital approaches, networked objects, sensors and experimental setups in sub-micron to macro scales, a MOOC lab to produce online courses, a MobileLab to develop innovative projects for using smartphones in health and education.

We specifically focus on open source, generic and low-cost technologies, ones that can be hacked, forked, adjusted and reused. The platforms, as well as their dedicated permanent staff, are there not only to support but also inspire. Most importantly, this approach enables smooth transition between fellows’ past and future, making them flexible, adaptable and largely independent of high-cost, proprietary technology.

CRI research is not organized around classical teams with rigid pyramidal structure. Instead, each fellow, regardless of their seniority will be supported by at least one expert, their principal mentor, and a number of co-mentors, who will bring individual expertise.

These co-mentors are considered associate faculty, recruited from a large pool of French and international fellows, including members of CRI’s own teaching body. Most may not have a permanent physical presence at CRI, but form its backbone of global expertise and mentorship. The ongoing co-mentor appointments ensure that fellows are supported in a flexible way, one that co-evolves with their research interests and needs.

The theme of openness at CRI continues beyond the technology used towards the way in which we approach the process of doing research itself. We are a collaboratory – a lab of labs in which the knowledge and technical competencies will be actively shared among the fellows, prioritizing collective intelligence approach over individual, highly specialized pursuits.

We host fellows who thrive in a dynamic environments, are inspired and motivated by daily interactions with diverse peers, work best in teams and comfortably mix disciplines, rearranging and straddling field boundaries.  Within the 20-strong fellows we carefully balance between duration (3 months – 5 years), seniority and expertise. CRI fellows are able to explore first hand the potential of interdisciplinary approaches, IT, games related to scientific discovery, and citizen scientists.

Their time at CRI provides a respite from the prevalent culture of grant chasing, cut-throat competition, publish-or-perish, and risk avoiding. CRI strives to be the rare home for this different type of researcher, whose potential may be unfulfilled and approach unwelcome in most classical institutions. Beyond their stay at CRI, we hope what would be acquired here will enable them to be catalyzers of change towards collaborative, open approaches in their future structures.

Our hosted top-notch fellows are invited to share their knowledge with our students, and to engage them in their projects as interns and PhDs students. The fellows are free to determine the type and extent of these interactions, shaping them to be most mutually beneficial.

The 200+ strong CRI student body is exceptionally diverse across nearly all axis, but still shares core traits including strong curiosity and inspiring motivation. Starting from 1-week internships in the first year of bachelors to 6-month master internships, our students spend many months in research labs, learning by doing.

Once CRI research reaches full complement of fellows (projected for end 2019), we aim to have them spend at least one of those internships within CRI itself, creating an extremely valuable flux of bright, motivated students, already possessing the core ideas of interdisciplinarity and open science.

One of the main CRI missions is not just to do research, but to do research on the research endeavor itself. We are addressing new types of problems, in unexplored intersections of fields and competences, and it is only natural that new approaches and tools are needed and ethical issues are raised and tackled.

The aim to like to answer include how to stimulate collective intelligence on different scales, and how to adapt laboratory structure to recognize the achievements of those who acquire, communicate and collaboratively develop knowledge. In a way, our fellows are both research actors and subjects, thus increasing their takeaway personal capital — when they leave CRI, they will have improved their research practices, learned how to create and sustain meaningful collaborations, and be better scientists as a whole.

The CRI bi-annual fellow calls focus on specific themes, underrepresented or missing from classical institutions, based on the discussions and challenges put forward during dedicated Advanced workshops 

Simultaneously, all scientists who are working on the intersection between life, digital, and learning sciences are welcome at CRI Research Collaboratory.