On Saturday while other Berliners went to the market, or stumbled bleary-eyed out of (or into) a club, a group of Book Sprinters took over a minimalist loftspace in Kreuzberg designed for experiencing cool Berlin, to get down and nerdy.
Their intention: to write a book about how to improve the “support ecosystem” for the communication of research. This refers to the entire hidden and, I imagine, often unappreciated work that goes into the publication of new knowledge. The book sets out to take a snapshot of this community, or perceived community (there was a lot of debate about whether there is actually a community or not), at this point in time, where many shifts are afoot because of technological developments and changes in the research funding landscape. The group coined a new term for the people involved in this work: Supporters. These involve funders, private and public research institutions, infrastructure providers, publishers, institutional libraries and sometimes researchers themselves. Together these Supporters reflected on the ways in which the research communication system contributes to and creates problems for the research community it tries to serve. The group were highly passionate and motivated to write this book and because they all had a long history of working together already, and already advocate for open access and sharing of knowledge in their own work, pretty much the ideal Book Sprinters! In fact the group spent much time talking about the problems of research and data not being shared and the role of openness in a world governed by fierce competition, which was an interesting mirror to the Book Sprints process itself.