Discover how researchers at IdeaSquare are contributing to open innovation in social sciences
The Open Innovation in Science Research Conference 2023 took place May 8-10 in Vienna, Austria. Started in 2019, the OIS Research Conference aims to bring together scholars from across disciplines to discuss the role and value of openness and collaboration in science.
This year’s conference centred around ‘synergies and tensions around impact: how does OIS come into play?’ with 27 research projects presented, covering a range of OIS topics for discussion.
Catarina Batista and Ole Werner, educational programmes and activity coordinators and researchers at CERN IdeaSquare, had the opportunity to present their research, investigating ways to measure the fostering of creativity at early career stages. They explored others’ findings through collaborative sessions on research papers, discussing topics from alternate research designs to promote the influence of open innovation, to how science can and should interact with society.
We sat down with Catarina and Ole to discuss the experience of presenting their research, and the ideas their participation in the OIS conference can bring to IdeaSquare.
Could you start by telling us about your experience at the OIS conference?
Catarina: The conference centred around synergies and tensions with open innovation. One of the sessions I took part in made me think more critically about these synergies and tensions in open innovation science. How on one hand, it can be beneficial to bring different perspectives and voices to the conversation. But on the other hand, it might also condition the scientific power of the studies if it is unreliable. There were many conversations about whether we are valuing novelty too much, and if we are actually considering what we mean by novelty.
Ole: The thing I found really cool was the spirit of the conference - there were people talking about their own research, but they also just came to you with questions about your own research, especially if they had a similar background. I had a PhD student from the University of Potsdam approach me because I had discussed behaviour change, and this led to us agreeing to continue our exchange of ideas beyond the conference. The environment was collaborative and open, just as the name implies!
What was it like to present your early-stage research at the conference?
Ole: We presented our research on the last day, and during our presentation, we had two discussions: one with Marc Lerchenmueller, assistant professor at the University of Mannheim and Agnieszka Radziwon, Assistant Professor of Innovation Management at Aarhus University and the University of California.
Catarina: The paper sessions were organised into three papers per session, so we presented together with two other early-stage studies. The feedback was constructive and empowering, with everyone keen to support and suggest new methods and approaches we could take. We finished our presentation by saying: ‘we are here in an open innovation conference, so you can help us refine what we are doing, and we can think of new things together.’ I think that was a great segway to encourage people to provide constructive feedback, rather than one of critique. It was great to be able to bring the name of IdeaSquare and really show people what we’re about. It was also the first time in five years that two people presented one paper at the conference together - they’ve never had anyone do that!
What message would you like people to take from your presentation of your research?
Catarina: I think it came across that we have an innate willingness to confront what we are doing and really ask if it is working, and if so - why? This sort of curiosity is a key aspect of why we are doing this. And it also passes along the message that we should all question what we are doing and what we are trying to do.
Ole: For me, it was interesting to see that across the whole conference, discussions really highlighted the black box of creativity - which was something that was a bit part of our talk. It is something we have in our mind when we talk about creativity, but it’s also about going deeper and asking the questions such as: why? And what for? And is it always the best thing to get? Or might there be more fitting criteria to judge impact on? I thought the discussions surrounding that topic were very interesting.
Catarina: We also focused on showing how IdeaSquare is a testbed, and that we are always looking for new experiments and ways of trying new things together - really showing what we mean by open innovation. It’s the way we can advance, and I think we made it clear during our presentation that we simply don't exist in this space without experimentation, collaboration and serendipity.
Ole: I think that we were the only people there who weren’t doing their PhD or postdoc research on this topic, so you could say that we are the ones closest to their samples. We really know the people that make up our data points, which is quite unique in this sort of setting. Most people have come directly from institutes or academia, where they receive their data in the form of data transmission - and this detachment from data and reality can happen quite easily. We on the other hand offer the possibility to get a snapshot of reality.
Catarina: A lot of people asked us why we are doing this, and where our research fits. Our answer is simple - we are doing it because we want to, and it’s something we are curious about. I think it was refreshing to be educators and practitioners amongst so many scholars and academics.
What did you take away from your experience and were there any ideas and inspiration that you feel could be brought to IdeaSquare?
Catarina: We took a lot of ideas for new methods that we could use, but of course we still have to do more research to see how they might fit and be implemented. I think that is a really clear outcome.
Ole: The main take-home for me is that we’re not alone in what we are doing. It is still a question of figuring out the black box of creativity - it has so many different sides and angles. One thing I was thinking about before attending the conference was how difficult it is for us to think about control groups and find comparable scenarios. IdeaSquare, and also CERN, is quite unique in the aspect of its interaction with academia. In the feedback we received, it was suggested to "just" have our measurements before people arrive at CERN and after they get back home. From my studies, I was always taught that this isn’t enough - that there also has to be a control group. But in practice, one has to work with what's there and feasible - we are in this position where having the temporal comparison is sufficient. During the conference, it was refreshing to see that we are not alone in what we are doing and that we share the willingness to arrive at something to work with.
Catarina: I think it’s also recognising and validating that what we do is important. It means we can dig deeper into what makes what we do unique. And it could be beneficial to share and even replicate what we’re doing in other places to see what those magic ingredients are. I think mostly it is the feeling of validation like this that we need - showing what we do is important, and that we have the privilege to be able to do it.