We facilitate scientific collaborations—especially those that don’t emerge naturally—by finding the experts needed to complement research projects and documenting the credit due to every participant.
We are a non-profit and independent organization, grateful for the support of different scientific institutions but independent of them. Crowdfight was created by scientists, to serve scientists and the society; we work for the advancement of science and its application at the service of humankind.
Currently, most scientific collaborations are symmetric: All parties own the project to some extent, and this is reflected in the author list of eventual papers. These collaborations are great, but they are not the only ones worth fostering.
Asymmetric collaborations, where one researcher simply helps another, are of enormous value. A brief discussion regarding a protocol, for instance, can save weeks of trial-and-error; a recommendation for the correct statistical test can save a retraction. Today, these asymmetric collaborations only happen among friends or close colleagues. And even then, they are hardly officially recognized—who would write about this in their CV?
Crowdfight was born to fight the covid-19 pandemic, by coordinating volunteer scientists who could help other researchers working on covid-19. This experience showed that asymmetric collaborations can easily be established across the world, the enormous value that they can add, and that many end up creating a standard long-term collaboration that also benefits the volunteer. For example, we have seen a simple literature search become a high-impact review. Crowdfight COVID-19 has been a success, with >45000 volunteers, and >100 requests successfully resolved (and counting).
Many of these collaborations only make sense in an emergency such as the covid-19 pandemic, but others are possible in other disciplines and situations. We see a landscape of scientific collaborations, with different parts being accessible in different situations.
Our mission is to facilitate scientific collaborations. We do so by providing two services for the scientific community: To find the right expert to complement each project, and to document the process to provide all participants with due credit. By standardizing this process, we have defined what might be the “atoms” of scientific collaboration. No matter how small their contribution, every participant can be credited for it.
Most of our activity is focused on brief asymmetric collaborations, because they are easy to establish and have so far been neglected. But many become regular long-term (symmetric) collaborations, and our mission covers all types of scientific collaborations, also including those between scientists and non-scientists.
Crowdfight strives to change the culture of the scientific community, so that we, scientists, come to view helping each other (not just collaborating) as a normal part of our work. We are already used to donating our time to the community, for example when reviewing papers or grants. It’s sad that most of this altruistic work is directed to controlling each other, rather than to helping each other.
This cultural change has the potential to transform the way in which we conduct research, making it more efficient and collaborative, but also more human. Right now each researcher is an island, required to lead and excel in every skill, from mastering a lab protocol to organizing a science dissemination event. Instead, we believe that each one of us should be able to focus on what we really do well, increasing the efficiency of our work and decreasing the current levels of stress and perceived failure. This goal requires more pervasive, flexible and organized collaboration, with a true division of labor among scientists with complementary skills.
Crowdfight is a non-profit organization. It runs, first and foremost, thanks to the generosity of thousands of scientists who donate their time and skill to make our system work. Likewise, most of the core team is formed by scientists and developers who donate their free time to organize the platform. It is also funded by a grant from the European Co-creation Secretariat, which supports a small administrative team and our technological infrastructure. We are also grateful to several companies that let us use their software for free or with significant discounts, including Google, Slack, Freshdesk, MailerLite and Kinsta.