BLOG: After the Sage 10th Anniversary Assembly – Broadening Our Perspectives

As an organization focused on the power of community to promote reliable scientific observations, Sage Bionetworks celebrated our 10th Anniversary this summer in the only way we know how – with a communing. Many thanks to those who joined us in Seattle and via livestream. For those who couldn’t, the playlist of videos of the presentations is now available.

I also want to share some high-level themes that threaded the day:

Though scientists take pride in operating in a data-driven and objective manner, we are humans and we can’t help operating in human ways. We unintentionally collect data in a manner that is biased toward an answer we believe to be true. We fail to consider conclusions that do not conform to conventional wisdom. We de-prioritize risky projects.

For the study of human health, this conservative, short-term perspective limits innovation. Open science was designed to help – to more broadly spread knowledge, to expand the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives in science, to support an honest assessment of the reliability and reproducibility of our observations, to help us to take more risks.

Built from the bottom up, open science is now acknowledged and embraced by a growing group of scientists, funders, and publishers. In this position, we have a responsibility to objectively evaluate the benefits and flaws in open science in order to guide continued development of the scientific infrastructure. The community is primed for the effort.

Conversation at the Assembly, led by the keynote presenters, panelists and audience, included salient points such as:

  • Use of open data often does not occur in anticipated ways – and this can lead to misalignment between policy, platforms, and practice.
  • Meaningful engagement of participants in research is evolving toward more intentional integration into clinical care.
  • The active involvement of communities that have not previously had an active voice in research – as participants or as researchers – requires co-design and long-term partnership.

Here are some of the reflections and learnings that the Assembly attendees had to share:

“The Sage community’s work on open science is a brilliant testbed for practical, scientific approaches to creating useful and usable content and tools that can be stewarded for the long term. The community is broad, deep, diverse, and deeply engaged in a vast array of issues surrounding open science, evidence, biosciences, research, practice, privacy, economics and social justice. The assembly comprised the most enthusiastic, warm, committed, and focused group of individuals imaginable, resulting in a cohesive and coherent message.” – Christine Borgman, UCLA

“I love that the Sage community consists of not just researchers, but also publishers, journalists, artists, authors, etc., and that everyone is encouraged to contribute and engage in this dynamic learning experience. I find it inspiring that Sage has created such a welcoming environment! Being part of the Sage community, I have found myself to be more critical (in a good way), confident, and motivated.” – Lisa Matthias, Freie Universität Berlin and Simon Fraser University

“There is a thriving, brilliant community committed to open science, and we must collaborate to achieve optimal output in terms of scientific quality and for the patients and individuals we are trying to serve.” – Jennifer Goldsack, Digital Medicine Society

“Being involved in the Sage community gives me hope that tech-driven strategies can produce broad benefits inclusive of marginalized and disenfranchised communities. It helps me see where the alignments and overlaps exist between the communities with which I identify and work with and those in the open science movement. My sense is that the pieces are aligning for moving forward with a deeper, community-driven approach to open science, with a focus on building, iterating on, and ultimately realizing equitable strategies and practices.” – Joon-Ho Yu, University of Washington and member of the Sage Bionetworks Scientific Advisory Board

“The Sage team has always expanded my thinking and helped me craft arguments that go beyond soundbites. The world we live in right now requires a deep level of nuance and patience, balanced with a vision. It’s easy to lose sight of how to protect and honor patient wishes when the draws from capitalism are so strong and often the incentives are not lined up to honor the individual. (Sage) brings a much-needed human element into the fold, and the renaissance view sparks new ideas to retractable problems.” – Andy Coravos, Elektra Labs

“While bioethics have received a lot of attention, data ethics need to become a focus. In our era of open science (including sharing data, software, and other resources), there is a wide range of opportunities for discovery and innovation, but there is also a risk and a vulnerability about what happens when that information gets out ‘in the wild.’” – Aaron Kaat, Northwestern University

“Everyone is on a learning curve and everyone has something to contribute – Sage already recognizes this and incorporates it into its fabric of organizational success. It’s both refreshing and frustrating to see recurrent challenges in data and knowledge sharing; refreshing to recognize that many people are still working to find solutions to improve data sharing and integration and dissemination, but frustrating that there is no magic bullet. (Sage) is such an important part of the process/progress.” – A participant

“‘Open science’ is in the process of being defined and will continue to be defined by those who do it. It seems pretty clear that there will never be consensus between 100% of those who identify as practicing open science. This isn’t something to be lamented; exactly the same kind of definitional issues exists within ‘science’ itself. The key will be to figure out a way of mediating and distinguishing between the different definitions in order to find common ground and further refine our own ideas.” – Dylan Roskams-Edris, Canadian Open Neuroscience Platform and Sage Assembly Young Investigator

“Open science is a philosophic position that needs to spread throughout all sciences and, consequently, bringing a diverse population of people together to listen and express their interest in this area is absolutely critical. So having an organization that isn’t dealing with a specific scientific subset of issues but in fact is dealing more broadly with the concept of integrating ideas about openness” is important. – Ben Shapiro, Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative

“What draws me to this community and these conversations is that you’re amidst a crowd of people who are very intentional about how they want to share, what they want to share, and to what end. That’s the value of Sage and the importance of convening a diverse range of people to think about things in a way that aligns.” – Cecilia Arradaza, Founder, C.A. Collaborative and Sage Board Director

“I’m an open science advocate and Sage is one of the organizations you know and trust in that area. They ask the right kinds of questions, the hard questions about what it is to have open science. …Sage has demonstrated on numerous occasions and multiple levels that this is a safe place to have those kinds of conversations.” – Terri Gilbert, Cohen Veterans Bioscience

BLOG: In which Sage turns 10 and celebrates with their community

This month marks the tenth anniversary of Sage Bionetworks. Trumpets, please! Sage focuses on developing community-based knowledge systems of people, data, and tools to identify reliable scientific outcomes poised for translation. These trusted networks provide a diversity of experiences and opinions, so that research is evaluated from many angles and translational solutions are widely useful. They also verify our results, so we don’t fall into the trap of the self-assessment bias. Building on these experiences, we are celebrating our anniversary in the only way we know how – by bringing our community together on July 25 for the 10th Anniversary Sage Assembly.

The Assemblies have been annual events that we’ve hosted and that are designed to engage diverse participants to learn from and connect with one another. To pique our collective curiosity, we examine concepts in adjacent spaces – where few of the participants are experts and all are invited to explore together. This is intentional. As scientists, we are all trained to be laser-focused at meetings – promoting a singular idea that stands as the organizing principle behind our bodies of work (Make data open! Practice reproducible research! Justify your claims!). This approach may promote our work, but it dampens the opportunities for unstructured and unexpected interactions, and creates barriers to engaging people who don’t have formal scientific training. With the Assemblies, we loosened up the formula so we could all get out of our heads a bit. In the past, we have focused on art, education, and climate. We’ve considered the role of the individual in healthcare, research, and algorithms.

You know that feeling of introspection that comes with big birthday milestones? It turns out that the same happens with the maturing of an organization. This anniversary has us reflecting on our past accomplishments, acknowledging our failures, and planning for the future. From that frame of mind, we are bringing this year’s Assembly close to home with the theme: “Open Science and the Role of Common Evidence.”

People are so important to science. We see the need for a diversity of input to turn early insights into stable evidence that can support advancements in medicine. There is an urgent need for more rapid mechanisms to foster this transition. Open approaches can help here – and they can also lead to a host of other issues. This year, the Assembly will acknowledge and evaluate existing open systems – and look to the future that we want to be creating.

Recognizing that our community is large and distributed, we will be livestreaming the Assembly presentations starting at 9 a.m. PST on July 25. The agenda is available at The livestream will be available on this channel. We hope to see you there!