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Biology garages and edupunks at documentary festival

Documentary about open-source science at CPH:DOX features University of Copenhagen scientists from the Center for Synthetic Biology

Welcome to the world of biology garages, hacker spaces and edupunks. All over the world, a new generation of scientists are exploring alternative ways of researching, with no formal training required.

This, the unconventional approach to science is the subject of a documentary premiering today at the CPH:DOX Documentary Festival. Director Alfred Birkegaard has travelled all over the world to explore these emerging networks: from Silicon Valley to the corridors of the Center for Synthetic Biology at the University of Copenhagen.

“The Open Science movement is attempting to explore what the traditional university or corporate research worlds haven’t been able to” he says to the University Post. “What can we discover outside the disciplines? What exists between the disciplines?”

Wisdom of the crowd

The collaboration can often be successful. “There are a variety of projects where the ’wisdom of the crowd’ has solved problems in big ways,” says Birkegaard.

The film describes how 50,000 gamers on the Internet helped to solve part of the mystery surrounding AIDS. They used an online site where users could guess the shape of a HIV-related protein in a game-like environment. The problem stumped researchers for 15 years; over the Internet, the results took only three weeks.

“It’s very hard in research to predict what you can do, and what you cannot do, especially when you move to new areas that have not yet been explored. This is the approach of the biohacker spaces” says Prof Birger Lindberg Møller, head of the Center for Synthetic Biology at UCPH, who also appears in the documentary.

The age of collaboration

Ultimately, says Birkegaard, “open science is bringing down some of the traditional gatekeepers to science, allowing those who may not have a formal scientific background to collaborate.”

“It’s about developing new communities, new networks, new cultures of learning that allow for valuable new knowledge to be created. The role of universities must evolve to accommodate and engage with these new spaces and communities that are growing across the globe.”

“The University now needs to go back to its roots: the process of creating knowledge, searching for truth, exploring,” adds Birkegaard “It’s so much more than just a factory for producing papers and articles. Since universities are funded by the society, they are critical spaces for cultivating generous collaboration.”

The Documentary “Collaboration: On the Edge of a New Paradigm?” is showing at CPH:DOX. See more information in fact box right.

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