P2PU research dept


hi all,
this is my first post here, but some of you may have seen me ‘around’ on the community email list. I have been ‘an active bystander’ of p2pu for quite a while now, and really am impressed by the amazing people affiliated with it (including me ;)). I love the experimental, hands-on attitude and I think that has been noticed. P2PU is becoming a rather well-known brand, and I think that offers new opportunities. It happened that I was chatting with Philipp this week as he was moving with over 600 mph in some direction. He told me they were developing the strategy for P2PU for the coming years, and it happened that an idea I shared with him and Vanessa was quite in line with what they were thinking. I gave it some more thought and share it here with you for feedback and elaboration.

I have tried to expand the ideas I had in mind to put it in line with what is already discussed at P2PU headquarters (wherever that is :)). What Philipp talked about was moving into the direction of a toolkit for open social learning, maintained by a community of innovators. After some prodding, it seems that an innovator can be anyone who wants to try something new, so we are talking - as I would like to understand it - about experimental educators, scientists, and entrepreneurs. Personally, I think community involvement and participation is always constrained by time people are willing or able to invest. I was therefore thinking about ways in which (the prospect of) financial return can be introduced, also to kickstart innovative ideas.

My original idea/proposal was aimed at research, and supporting that the p2pu way. A great example is the openscienceframework.org - which offers a Github platform for science. The idea of getting people on-board for an open source science project is very appealing. In summary, my idea can be described as follows;

  • A market-place like platform that matches ideas with builders, research questions with scientists, and maybe even aspiring entrepreneurs with investors.
  • A place where you can start and kickstart any kind of innovative project, whether a cool new technology, approach, or research.
  • Aimed at facilitating the entire workflow from idea to either innovation or (research) project through funding and/or community building.

Let me give an example of how that would work. I recently submitted a proposal to the MOOC research initiative, and we got through to the second round, but unfortunately, it was not funded. How I did it, is more interesting, and got me thinking in this direction in the first place. I posted a question on the P2PU mailing list asking if anyone was considering a proposal for MRI2013. After a few days, I got an email from Sasha Skrypnyk, who was notified of my post. We hooked up through Google Hangout, and started drafting the proposal. In the end, we managed to get a pretty decent proposal, and based on the reviews I think we nearly got through, all through a virtual collaboration.

I think such collaborations may be better supported by P2PU because of the cool and inspiring and smart people affiliated with it. I think there could be something like a virtual research department, pro-actively acquiring new funds and pursuing research calls and getting people together around a central theme or question. Looking at the entire workflow, it should try to aggregate people with ideas/research questions, funds/investors, and those with data/potential users/cases.

Philipp told me about the PERTS team at Stanford, and you can read about their research on adaptive mindsets (i.e. if you think intelligence is innate → more likely to give up in situations you cannot master // if you think intelligence is product of effort → better able to deal with challenging assignments) on their website - http://www.perts.net/home/orientation/hs7.php. I imagine that even such a big study could in theory be facilitated and organized through such a P2PU platform: getting schools affiliated where such studies can be conducted, getting a team of researchers together to discuss the research questions and approach, getting funded through national or international foundations or funding institutes.


  • Open datasets: publishing datasets (for example through openscienceframework.org) to be used and explored by individuals or teams of affiliated researchers;
  • “Ideagora”:organizations, companies, funding agencies that want to explore particular questions or are looking for solutions to their problems (kind of Innocentive model);
  • Careers: Job options for ‘open science’ positions - possibly linked with a StackExchange-like forum focused on open social learning;
  • Affiliated organizations: Organizations who support the initiative or individual researchers/makers, because of the great research or because of the affiliations P2PU has (networking purposes);
  • Crowdfunding research ideas/questions: the possibility to kickstart an idea or (M)OOC through community building an crowdfunding - concerning courses, this has the benefit of only building courses that already have an audience (quality control);
  • Local teams: support for developing local (country) teams, communities, and projects.

If I continue this post any longer, I will lose readers. I think/hope I have made my ideas clear, and look forward to seeing you build upon/criticize this idea. I think a lot more can be achieved if people can really earn a (part-time) income through such a platform, because that increases the overall time/effort people can dedicate to advancing the field of open social learning.

####My original email:
hi there P&V.
I was just thinking about the following:

The reason I am involved in a few research projects, is because TU Delft is asked as a partner (or asks others) for a project. Delft University of Technology is a known university and therefore carries some weight which is important in getting funded. However, if I look at the finances, my official overhead at the university is €5600, which is ridiculous (believe me).

Also, the way the university is organized is far from optimal. I wonder if P2PU has ever thought of extending the research ‘facilities’ into a more serious effort, for example by determining how people can get hired through p2pu as research partner. P2PU as a serious research university I mean, taking it a step further than a group of people affiliated with p2pu who also do or did research. I think it could offer an interesting revenue model. P2PU is now sufficiently ‘known’ and might be able to support such peer-based research teams. It should be aimed at connecting researchers who are willing to work part-time on a p2pu research team, and who get together locally and online, develop proposals, and actually act as a regular research department (being pro-active in sending out proposals, acquiring contacts, visiting conferences, getting funded, etc.), and of course aimed at open research practice and developing relevant methodologies.


It’s a little long to give feedback, but I love the idea of an open research alliance that is supported by P2PU. I think funding is important, but there are also some great people who have existing funding, and are looking for interesting projects to work with or study.

And in terms of supporting more work, we could act as facilitators of larger research grants (in the same way George Siemens just hosted the Gates grant - but smaller, and more open to experimental studies). Or we could discuss new research ideas within the community and then go after grants together for larger scale projects.


Hi @thiemehennis, very cool ideas, I’ve been thinking about similar stuff myself. Apart from my PhD, I’m working on MOOC research at UToronto, and we applied for 4 and got 3 of the MRI grants you mention. It has been very interesting to see the research administration process from within - lot’s of overhead (ie. money taken to fund infrastructure), and also not very “agile” in terms of spinning up servers to do big data analytics etc. Of course, $25k isn’t that much, but it could still fund a few researchers doing agile work for a few months…

I remember discussing in Barcelona with @jessykate about what kind of infrastructure independent researchers would need. Many funders require ethics reviews for example, could there be an “ethics review as a service” company or organization? (Tricky for international collaborations, because different countries have different laws - even US and Canada are quite different I think).

I guess there already consultancies and research institutes (like SRI in California) that kind of work like that though - ie. apply for grants, and do commissioned research.

Given the way academic research is evaluated, there are a number of gaps that stand out. One is the whole summarizing, synthesizing, providing high-level overviews – what is the state of art on research on learning communities? On independent learners? On asynchronous discussions? We shouldn’t each have to read hundreds of papers to find out… We need roadmaps that are continually developed.

The other is to take educational technological innovations and mainstream them – I remember when leading a P2PU course, I read about some Brazilian experiments with “threaded chat” which sounded like it would work really well with our course. Of course I couldn’t find the code anywhere, and when I emailed the group, they told me they had moved on to other things, and the code was rotten… There are so many innovations, and a lot of code written/designs made etc, but once you get your publication, you move on - the technology rarely becomes available for general use (that’s a lot of extra work, and isn’t necessarily rewarded).

(Finally, I’m really interested in tools and workflows that enable researchers to collaborate more effectively, whether it’s citation management, tools that enable the kind of synthesis/roadmap generation, inspired by Simon Buckingham Shum’s work (see example), etc.) How can ideas from collaborative/computer-supported learning support collaborative research (which to me is clearly also a form of learning)?


Hi @thiemehennis,

I love your idea, your enthusiasm is inspiring. You seem to talk about using P2PU to hire members as research partners, but you also speak about community-based research Do you not think that more innovation might be reached if we shift the paradigm to be inline with the concept of “open source”. In the world of software, large innovation has come about by individuals giving of their time to produce free software. Research funding and grants have often been criticized as introducing possible bias into the research. Imagine if there was the same culture in research as there is currently with the Open Source community. I recently wrote a short article of the gaps I feel we need to full before we can “open” research to those outside of formal education institutes. I’d be interested in your comments. The article is over here: http://www.ralfepoisson.com/blog/2013/thoughts-on-open-science/

Obviously a lot of research requires funding, and I think your idea of “crowdfunding” perfectly solves the problem of decentralization and bias. However, at the same time a lot of research can also be done by individuals at no cost. For example, I am currently conducting research into the Deaf Community in South Africa at my own expense, as I don’t need special equipment, nor do I need to hire others to assist. I think it would be wrong for people to assume that research can only be conducted if they are paid to do so. This comes back to my point of an “Open Source” mindset that I feel should be cultivated.


hi Ralfe, I do think that an ‘open source’ mindset is very helpful in developing a research community, but I think ‘open source/voluntary’ research activities are essentially different from paid research. If I look at my own situation, if I would - for example - rather find a grant to kickstart an open research platform, find the right partners, reward them for their contributions, etc. then trying to let it emerge from interest and passion alone. The latter is not impossible, but maybe more difficult to achieve because it may be second on the list of priorities. I do not have enough free time nor am I in the financial position to be able to spend sufficient time voluntary on such a venture to make it a success. I just rather find the funds and then dedicate significant time to such a thing. Small, hobby-like projects may be open source, and also if you consider kickstarting a project, I suppose it would help if there is already a community behind it. The organization of a project (open source or funded) should not be the main focus, although interesting, but the outcome of the project itself, regardless of its organization, as long as it is openly shared and people have the possibility to contribute/fork/etc.

Thanks again for your thinking!

PS. Will read you post!


@shaklev - will answer you later! Gotta do some ‘paid’ work now :slight_smile:


Hi @thiemehennis,

I understand your points about funding, motivation, and so on. However, consider the Open Master’s programme (http://www.openmasters.org). When individuals participate in the Open Master’s programme, it is not unthinkable that they might wish to include a research component. In this case, would it not be very convenient for them to make use of an open review framework to get relevant feedback on their research proposal, some kind of community ethics clearance process, and then an open peer-review and open publishing process and platform for their resulting research paper(s).

Perhaps I am too optimistic about the potential of initiatives such as the Open Master’s and Citizen Science, but I feel that we can only know how successful something like this is once it is available for potentially interested people to start using it.

Your suggestion of kickstarting research projects nicely solves the problem of decentralized funding, thus mitigating the risk of bias introduced from the interests of the organization funding the research. However, funding is only one of the hurdles to open research.



hi Ralfe, thanks for the swift response. I don’t think we disagree, because it is not either/or, but both approaches can be supported and maybe sustained in a similar framework. Both open source and funded research can coexist and probably reinforce each other, but also work against each other. My son is shouting so I cannot concentrate anymore, will check back later :smiley:


HI @thiemehennis, wonderful paradigm shift there. But I feel that if we should employ open research as @ralfe is suggesting there should be open funding to (some material) I would love to link to Vanessa presentation on . https://speakerdeck.com/mozzadrella/money-from-the-future. I think this should be a good time to have deliverable on the change of system Vanessa is asking for…


hey thanks to revive this old, but still relevant thread… :slight_smile: I am
currently developing/employing a different approach to open research (check
my LAK15 presentation:


It;s focused more on the process of facilitating research by providing
access to our (MOOC/course) data and co-designing research instruments with
external partners (who know a lot about a specific topic), as opposed to
hiring PhDs and other researchers to focus on one or two topics for many
years. more flexible and divergent than traditional in-house research. The
challenge is to facilitate effectively, communicate and address mutual
objectives, and to couple back to the in-house production of open content.

Will check the link you sent later. Gotta go now.


So thiemehennis how far have you gone and how willing are you to expand on this?
I am interested in this topic. Since it would stimulate a lot of participation from my network.


unfortunately I did not succeed in convincing my superiors at the time to further go down this path. I think I know why (politics), but I will not expand on this in a public space like this. Anyway, I am convinced this is a good model to do research, and besides: a wonderfully complex but manageable challenge. To continue, I think we could draft a proposal for a funding agency once we get a few partners willing to collaborate and share their data and instruments. The idea of an open, network- or community based research model is still worth pursuing for several reasons. I would be willing to contribute to a proposal to see if we can get it funded. Possibly we could hook up offsite to exchange some ideas and see if there are opportunities.