In this project, we gather extensive organizational and performance data from digital traces (open lab notebooks), questionnaires and app-based self-reporting across 3,000+ interdisciplinary teams participating in the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) synthetic biology student competition. Using this data we study how team interactions and team diversity impact the performance of iGEM teams and the learning experience of the students. How do students collaborate? How are subgroups formed? What is the frequency of interactions with mentors/PIs? How do these interactions lead to better learning (skill spreading), productivity (BioBricks produced / project size), creativity (project uniqueness) or just success in the competition (medals, prizes, winners)?
We are partnering with iGEM teams to conduct a quantitative, large-scale study, using several methods:
- Questionnaires. We prepared questionnaires to be filled by team members at the 3 time points during the project. They allow us to better understand the team process and diversity!
- Communication metadata. The analysis of the metadata (user-timestamp) from communication networks (Slack, WhatsApp, E-mail, etc.) at the end of the project allows to better understand the communication flows within the team.
- Proximity experiment. Lastly, we built a smartphone application that allows to measure interactions of team members in the lab through bluetooth. By using the application on certain days during the study, we can reconstruct team interaction networks in the lab!