Browser extension for Finna.fi and a “knowledge crystal” – Wide challenge produced exciting new solutions for the openness of science

Ways to connect policy makers and scientists, tools to help find information faster, extensions to prove the truthfulness of science journalism. These among many other solutions were created during WIDE – Open Source Science, a unique new open science hackathon and challenge competition aiming towards new solutions for making science more open and accessible. 

Text: Heta Lampinen and Yousif Abdullah

Photos: Tapio Auvinen

We need new innovations and solutions in order to remove publicly funded science from behind paywalls and make it accessible for all. This was the main theme of the multidisciplinary challenge and hackathon WIDE – Open Source Science, organized 26–28 October at Leipätehdas in Helsinki by the University of Helsinki IT Center, National Library of Finland, CSC – IT Center for Science and Helsinki Think Company.

The unique challenge brought together almost 100 participants, with 17 teams consisting of students, researchers, coders and other open science enthusiasts from over 30 different fields of study. With the help of workshops and mentoring from open science and open data experts, they created new technical solutions and other concepts to both make science more accessible for citizens, politicians and business, as well as to encourage scientists and researchers to openly share their work.

The Helsinki Think Company team feeling cheerful after a successful weekend.

Winning solutions targeted politicians and book readers

17 teams pitched their solutions to judges in the Final on Sunday. Team Tiedekide was awarded as the best multidisciplinary solution for their novel solution: a website called Tietokide (or “Knowledge Crystal”) for collecting, discussing and synthesizing scientific information and values to answer policy-relevant questions. The concept is based on co-creation, openness, and discussions.

“At the moment, researchers publish their results scattered in paid scientific journals closed from the public. This data is stored forever, but it never gets edited. The idea of Tietokide is to break this thought and as a solution it it is way more economic and better than the current situation”, says Jouni Tuomisto.

“To bring knowledge to a single, open place would for example enable politicians to reach all needed, up-to-date information in one place. Political discussions would become more rational and focus on values instead of false information.

The winning team consisted of Jouni Tuomisto, Kaisa Haverinen, Juha-Pekka Finnilä ja Teemu Ropponen.

The winning coding solution was Team Extension Boyz’s browser extension for Finna.fi, a database providing free access to material from Finnish museums, libraries and archives. The extension recommends the user relevant books on any text or topic of interest that they choose.

Annif has a good text indexing algorithm. By combining this with the Finna API, we can create something that improves the usability and accessibility of both platforms”, the team described their technical solution.

This was the first ever hackathon experience for Akangbe Samuel, Steve Nebo and Yazan Al Halabi of Team Extension Boyz. The team already has plans to develop their solution even further.

Solutions will be shared for all online

The work does not end here. The best Wide teams can seek support from the partnering organizations for developing their solutions further. In addition, all the coding solutions produced during the hackathon have been shared on the development platform GitHub, accessible from a single public repository here: https://github.com/helsinkithinkcompany/wideThere, anyone interested in open source can get to know the solutions better and also continue to develop them forward.These are exciting times for the open science movement. As Yazan Al Halabi from the winning team put it:

“The [tech] industry is a growing field. What makes it thriving and growing is the opportunity to share the knowledge and develop other’s ideas forward. First someone creates a wheel, after that another one can develop it into a car. Further, someone can develop that car even more forward”,

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