Key aspects of the CRI Collaboratory

CRI seeks to catalyse 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 will be the 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 a place 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, will give CRI fellows broadest possible support group, collaborator base, and active audience, while enabling them 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 will 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 will enable smooth transition between fellows’ past and future, making them flexible, adaptable and largely independent of high-cost, proprietary technology.

CRI research will not be organised 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 will be associate fellow, recruited from a large pool of French and international fellows, including members of CRI’s own teaching body.

Most will not have a permanent physical presence at CRI, but will form its backbone of global expertise and mentorship. The ongoing co-mentor appointments will 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 strive to be a collaboratory – a lab of labs in which the knowledge and technical competencies will be actively shared among the fellows, prioritising collective intelligence approach over individual, highly specialized pursuits.

We wish to attract 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. A careful balance will be sought within the 20-strong fellows between duration (0.2-5 years), seniority and expertise. CRI fellows will be able to explore first hand the potential of interdisciplinary approaches, IT, games related to scientific discovery, and citizen scientists.

Their time at CRI will at the least provide a respite from the prevalent culture of grant chasing, cut-throat competition, publish-or-perish, and risk avoiding. Instead, 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 will be invited to share their knowledge with our students, and to engage them in their projects as interns and PhDs students. The fellows will be 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 program is fully running, 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 will be addressing new types of problems, in not unexplored intersections of fields and competences, and it is only natural that new approaches and tools will be needed and ethical issues be raised and tackled. The questions we would like to answer include how to stimulate collective intelligence on different scales, and how to adapt laboratory structure to recognise the achievements of those who acquire, communicate and collaboratively develop knowledge. In a way, our fellows will be 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 will focus on specific themes, underrepresented or missing from classical institutions, on the challenges of which are put forward by a dedicated ‘advanced workshop’. The calls are equilibrated with a white-open call. In the coming years, we will explore some of the themes listed above. This list is not exhaustive or final, but will be further discussed and adjusted over time to follow the advancement is relevant fields.