Question: "Rounding up" research areas?

liz is asking a question about general
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by liz | February 14, 2018 20:49 | #15735

I often impatiently just want to know, "what's the State of X topic?"

On, it's easy to find what the latest research is, but not straightforward to gain a comprehensive understanding of, for instance, particulate matter (pm), in terms of how many different method development & organizing/advocacy projects are going on, what their level of development is, and what the next challenges are.

Over the past couple months, Public Lab staff have been making notes on how we do "research roundups" when we need to talk about a project's status and invite new people in. I'd love your help improving these steps. Eventually, we'll create an activity out of them. Below, pm is used to illustrate how each step would work:

  • Review all posts, comments on topic areas (
  • Do keyword searches through the website and email groups to find stray content and tag it
  • Do an internet search to round up related work not in Public Lab
  • Write a provisional synthesis of "State of X topic" to present at OpenHour
  • Invite all contributors to come to OpenHour (
  • Write a blog (update the methods or topics page) up about the outcome of the meeting which becomes somehow the top of the wiki or tag page for that research area.

Related -- how often should a research area be rounded-up? What do you think?


Hi liz! I see there are several moving parts here:

  1. some is like wiki gardening
  2. some is like communication (posting update summaries)
  3. some is facilitating meetings and getting more real-time discussion

For all of the above, I'd like to emphasize the need for "welcoming tone" and to be especially welcoming and encouraging to newcomers -- kind of like the great posters we see at Public Lab #Barnraisings!

Some of the reasoning and tips on friendliness are in this post about software outreach which i think apply here too!


  • mentioning and appreciating newcomers
  • making sure you /ask/ people to participate
  • thanking people for helping make the project happen, even if they're just asking a question
  • warm and friendly tone!

After all, without newcomers, there won't be any community!

To reiterate from that last blog post,

Get out there and make sure people know they're welcome! They're not clairvoyant -- you need to put some work into it!


Thanks Liz - love this post!

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