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Another approach to research area reviews:

The review process outlined above built upon previous thinking on research area reviews (here and here), which can also be broken down into more distinct phases and distributed tasks in the following way:

Phase 1: Information Gathering

In Phase 1, the goal is to sift through and update all the existing resources on related to a topic. This could include checking in on other projects' updates as well, and if there's been a previous review, that's also a great place to start.

Phase 2: Convening

Phase 2 involves hosting an Open Call to bring folks together, to go through the collected materials from Phase 1, identify gaps and plan next steps.

Phase 3: Synthesizing

In Phase 3, the notes from the call and the newly collected materials, shared goals, and tasks are organized and shared on, tying the review together in a single post.

This table gives more details on the tasks and can serve as a template to organize the phases of a more distributed research area review:

Phase Task Type Who can do this Difficulty Task I'll do this!
1 Garden Anyone Easy Go through posts in the area and make sure they are properly tagged LINK
1 Share Anyone Easy Post questions on the topic area you have, or that you’re not able to find answers to on Public Lab. LINK
1 Garden One person Medium Make sure the wiki page has clear format LINK
1 Research Anyone Hard Help find answers to unanswered questions LINK
1 Facilitate Anyone Hard Invite, listen to, and record new stories related to the topic LINK
2 Share Anyone Easy Attend the open topic call and collaborate LINK
2 Facilitate One person Medium Host the public online meeting for group to collaborate to: Highlighting findings, ID gaps in available resources, highlight challenges in this research area LINK
3 Synthesize Anyone Hard Review existing material and call summary and write an update post on it with materials gathered LINK
3 Research One person Hard Follow up on gaps identified from the group and post materials to help support information around those gaps. LINK

Smaller-sized tasks
Applying any missing “tags” to research notes, question posts, and wiki pages on the current topic so they’re connected and easy to find (Find more about tags and how to use them here)
  • Posting a question related to the topic. This could be a question you have or a question you think others might have.
  • Answering a question related to the topic by commenting on the post. Answering questions might involve some background research, or it could involve reaching out to someone who might be able to help.
  • Find out more about asking and answering questions at About Public Lab's Questions & Answers.
Medium-sized tasks
Editing wiki pages or writing new research notes on the topic. This might involve finding, reading, and synthesizing information from various sources, and making technical information from those sources easier to understand.
Replicating an activity related to the topic and sharing back how it went through comments.
Inviting, listening to, and recording stories from people working on the topic.
Larger-sized tasks
Diagrams, drawings and doodles, infographics, visualizations, and photos can all help illustrate something about a topic or tool.
  • Testing, analyzing, or comparing existing tools and methods related to the topic, and posting your findings (example here).
  • Identifying next step challenges in tool development and adding them to the topic wiki (example here).
  • Identifying next steps could include describing where tool development might go next, or what additional information on the topic is still needed (example here).
  • Following up on a “next step” that interests you could include any of the other tasks described on this page!
Creating a step-by-step activity or a method page wiki related to the topic.
  • Presenting a live build or demonstration of a community science tool related to the topic (example here).
  • Sharing your lived or learned experience with the topic as a guest speaker during a public event.
  • Posting a summary of new resources and updates in the topic area after a TOTS.
  • Identifying topics and setting up a future TOTS.

  • Topic of focus for the TOTS round;
  • Anticipated start and end date of the TOTS round;
  • List of people contributing to the TOTS round: this is where you can type in your name if you’d like to participate!

  • Name of the chosen topic and links to any existing topic pages and their talk pages on
  • Specific goals and to-do’s for this TOTS round
  • Information on how to participate
  • Information on how we’ll communicate