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Open Science Prize FAQ

What is the Open Science Prize?
The Open Science Prize is a new initiative from the Wellcome Trust, US National Institutes of Health and Howard Hughes Medical Institute to encourage and support the prototyping and development of services, tools and/or platforms that enable open content – including publications, datasets, code and other research outputs – to be discovered, accessed and re-used in ways that will advance research, spark innovation and generate new societal benefits.
Why has the Prize been established?
The volume of digital objects for research available to researchers and the wider public is greater now than ever before, and so, consequently, are the opportunities to mine and extract value from existing open content and to generate new discoveries and other societal benefits. A key obstacle in realizing these benefits is the discoverability of open content, and the ability to access and utilize it.
The goal of this Prize is to stimulate the development of novel and ground-breaking tools and platforms to enable the reuse and repurposing of open digital research objects relevant to biomedical or health applications.  A Prize model is necessary to help accelerate the field of open biomedical research beyond what current funding mechanisms can achieve.  We also hope to demonstrate the huge potential value of Open Science approaches, and to generate excitement, momentum and further investment in the field.
We have sought to develop a prize model that is as open, flexible and interactive as possible, and encourages the development of new collaborations as well as new ideas. A key aim is to encourage international collaborations among technology innovators, health researchers, and biomedical informatics entities to advance Open Science. In building partnerships between innovators in the US and abroad, unique resources can be combined and leveraged to facilitate global health research objectives, increase rapid adoption of Open Science research tools across the globe, and enhance the generalizability of data sharing among researchers and practitioners internationally.
What types of innovations are we looking for?
We are looking for novel ideas and innovations that seek to unlock the vast potential benefits of making biomedical and health content and data open and re-usable.
This might include:
-   New applications and platforms that seek to integrate, repurpose or repackage open scientific content to be used in new ways – for example, platforms which gather content from the open “grey” literature (e.g., abstracts of recently funded grants, slides from scientific presentations) as well as peer-reviewed studies, and establish network node-connections and a recommender system for future searches/exploration.
-   New systems to enable researchers and other users to assess and discuss the quality and impact of open content – for example, through the innovative development and use of annotations, social media platforms and alternative metrics.

-   Innovative text and data mining tools that allow researchers and other users to identify content of interest and computationally analyse content to uncover new associations and discoveries.

-   New on-line platforms that enable or facilitate access to de-identified biomedical and health research data volunteered by individuals for researchers to analyse, share and mash-up with other sources of data relevant to health (e.g., climate data, geospatial data).
-   New tools to encourage the application of research methodologies primarily utilized in one research discipline (e.g., computer simulation, machine learning, dynamic systems modeling, structural equation modeling, classification and regression tree analysis) to be applied to open research data in a variety of scientific fields as appropriate to accelerate further discovery.

-   New tools and platforms that tailor open scientific content to new audiences, taking into account their level of biomedical research literacy and search purpose. Advance users, defined both by expertise and frequency of platform use, could gain access to openly available raw research data and further contribute to overall findings through additional analyses to be reviewed by a community of peers.
-   New applications or platforms that facilitate the evaluation of data credibility and curation of research grade data for particular communities of scientists (e.g., human genomics, microbiome, obesity) using novel algorithm and tools (e.g., natural language processing) and makes this data openly available to the community to share, analyse and disseminate.

-  Novel approaches that utilise crowd-sourcing approaches to analyse and enhance the useability of data, or which facilitate citizen science.
The above examples are purely illustrative.  The Prize is open to any idea or tool that seeks to demonstrate the benefits of making research outputs open and usable and finds new and innovative ways of enabling this.
We have created a list of some of the varied and rich biomedical data resources that entrants may seek to utilise and build on.  This is available as a Collection on the BioSharing platform.
What are we NOT looking for?
Entrants who fail to demonstrate a clear alignment with our fundamental aim to widen access to content and enable open science will not be considered.  Similarly, entrants who fail to provide reasonable assurances that their proposal is novel and will add value to existing tools and resources will not be successful.
We will not consider applications that are solely focused on establishing a new open access journal, or on converting an existing journal or data platform to open access form. We will also not consider proposals that are focused on maintaining an existing service or database.
What stage do ideas or prototypes need to have reached to be funded through the Prize?
The Prize is open both to those who have completely new ideas and require some funding to take it to the prototype stage, and those with initial early-stage prototypes who wish to develop them further for cross-national or international adoption.
Are applications restricted to the biomedical and health sciences?
Entrants must demonstrate that their proposals will contribute to the funding partners’ missions of advancing biomedical research and its healthcare application. We welcome applications that seek to integrate open biomedical content and data with that generated in other research fields in innovative ways.
Who is eligible to enter?
The Prize is open to international teams, whose membership must include at least one individual or group based in the United States, and at least one individual or group based in another country.  There is no limit on the size of teams, and teams may include individuals and groups based at academic research institutions, not-for-profit bodies and private sector organisations.  As set out in the Federal Register Notice for the Prize, teams may not include US federal employees acting within the scope of their employment (nor employees of the NIH, expert advisers for the Prize, or any other party involved in the design or execution of the Prize).
How can I identify potential international collaborators?
There are a variety of online forums and discussion groups for the open science community which may provide ideal avenues for identifying individuals interested in similar challenges – including, for example, the Open Knowledge Foundation’s open science mailing list.  Twitter is also a powerful tool, please use the hashtag #openscienceprize. Finally, we have created a space on GitHub specifically to help interested parties find collaborators.

What form will the prize take?  What is the size of the Fund?
The Open Science Prize is a two-stage competition:
-   For the first phase, successful entrants will be awarded prizes based on the most innovative and promising ideas and proposed Open Science tools. Afterwards, winning entrants will have six months to prototype or further develop their ideas.  In the first (pilot) round, we will award up to six prizes of $80,000 each.

-   At the end of the first phase, the six recipients of Phase I prizes will compete for a single phase II prize, which will provide a $230,000 award for the best prototype.
How can entrants apply for the prize?
Please refer to the guidance for applicants.  Entrants need to form teams that meet the criteria specified and prepare a case for the award that describes the proposed innovation.  One member of the team should then register on this site and submit an application on behalf of the team.  Entrants are encouraged to use multimedia tools to set out their ideas - including short videos, graphics, animations and so forth – where these can add value in illustrating their idea.
What are the key timings for the Prize?
The deadline for teams to submit entries for the Phase I prize is 11.59pm GMT on 29 February 2016.  Please refer to the competition schedule for other key timings.
How will the phase I competition be judged?
All applications will be evaluated by the staff from the partner funders– to ensure that they are within scope and budget and fulfil the prize criteria.  Eligible applications will then be reviewed by three or more members of our panel of Expert Advisers from the research, business and wider open science communities.  The final ranking of applications will be undertaken by NIH and Wellcome judging panels, taking into account the commentaries provided by our expert advisers.
What criteria will be used to review the Phase I competition?
The following criteria will be used to judge applications:
Advancement of Open Science – To what extent does the proposal/prototype advance the goals of open science in biomedical/health research, and fulfill the goals of openness in terms of the product and way of working? To what extent would it move the field forward?

Impact – What level of impact and benefit could the proposal – if successful – deliver to the research enterprise and health/healthcare research? Does the proposal/prototype address implementation in multiple settings in a cross-national manner?
Innovation – What level of creativity and technological innovation does the entrant demonstrate?

Originality – Is the technology or service genuinely novel and targeting an unmet need? Has the applicant evaluated other existing or alternative approaches, or delineated their approach in comparison to existing approaches (if applicable)?

Technological viability – Is the approach proposed viable? Can the proposed technology deliver?
Resource feasibility - Does the team have the required skills and resources?
How will the phase II competition be reviewed?
Phase II of this Challenge is open to Phase I winners only. For Phase II, Phase I Prize recipients will submit their prototypes, a brief progress report and a case for the award.  The final progress reports and applications for phase II will be made available, alongside any interim updates that the Phase I winner has provided during the Phase I funding period, for an open review and public voting process.
The three applications that rank highest in the public vote, will then be reviewed by the expert advisers, and the winner picked by the judging panels based on three key criteria:
Actual benefit and future impact of the tool or service in terms of advancing research and generating health and societal benefit;

Degree of innovation associated with the technology and approach;

Level of demand and utility associated with the proposed service or tool.
How will the funds be awarded?
For the Phase I competition, the NIH will provide awards to selected prize recipients in the US, per the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 funding authority.  The Wellcome Trust will hold and disburse funds from Wellcome and HHMI to prize recipients internationally (including in the US) in accordance with its Terms and Conditions.
For phase II, the NIH and Wellcome Trust would make separate awards (of $115k each) to the winning team.  The NIH will make its award to the US lead within the team.  The Wellcome Trust will likely make its award to the non-US lead within the collaborative team.

Does the prize cover overheads/indirect costs?
This is a prize and not a grant. The prize awards are predetermined ($80,000 for Phase I and $230,000 for Phase II) and not based on costs.
What happens to the prototypes developed by Phase I prize recipients who are not selected to receive the Phase II award?
The primary purpose of the phase I prize is to enable successful applicants to develop a prototype product or service.  At that point, we would envisage that a number of the ideas developed would be attractive to further investment.  This investment could be from a commercial or non-commercial funder. Seeking follow-on investment will be the responsibility of the developer team.
Would the Wellcome Trust, NIH or Howard Hughes Medical Institute provide further grant funding to resources and tools developed through the prize fund?
We recognise that for some of the applications developed it may be desirable if their on-going development was funded by a non-commercial entity as community resources.  For example, some of these may be eligible for funding via the Wellcome Trust’s Biomedical Resources and technology development grant schemes.  Prize recipients who are eligible may also consider applying for NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funds that are awarded on a competitive basis ( ).
We will keep this situation under review, and may explore with other funders and not-for-profit organisations the possibility of developing new funding opportunities to support services that are of broad value to the research community.
Who owns the IP in any product that is developed as a result of the funding?
Each entrant retains title to their Entry, including object and source code, and expressly reserves all intellectual property rights (e.g., copyrights and rights to inventions and patents that cover them) in their Entry, unless the entrant chooses an open license for the Entry.
By participating in the Challenge, each entrant grants to the U.S. government a nonexclusive, non-transferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice or have practiced for or on behalf of the United States any invention throughout the world owned or controlled by the entrant that covers the Entry, and grants to the U.S. government and others acting on behalf of the U.S. government, a royalty-free, irrevocable, non-exclusive worldwide license to use, reproduce, and display publicly all parts of the Entry for the purposes of the Prize.  This license includes without limitation posting or linking to the Entry on the official Prize website and, except for object code or source code, making the Entry available for research use by the public.
The use of open licences for outputs will be strongly encouraged, as this will potentially help to maximise the benefit flowing from successful proposals. We encourage entrants to distribute any computer code (object code and preferably also source code) that is part of the Entry to the public under a liberal open source license that permits the public to benefit from and improve upon the Entry (see the licenses available at Entrants should include in its submission a description of how and under what license terms any computer code that is part of the Entry will be made available to the public.
Who should I contact if I have any questions?
Please direct any questions concerning the Prize or the application process to or use the hashtag #openscienceprize on Twitter.