Accept the science challenge

12/1/2017 1:36:32 PM

So, you think you can do science? There are a number of open-science competitions out there that want you to prove it (and solve some pretty significant challenges in the process). This reflects a broader trend among the R&D community that values crowdsourcing ideas as a way to expand innovation and source new solutions. Additionally, there are other prizes, including ones specifically for early-career scientists, that recognize significant research contributions already made to science.


As an early-career professional, you can use science challenges to test out new skills and research ideas, demonstrate the potential to secure funding and gain some visibility (which is a big plus when going on the job market). Not to mention, you would be contributing to finding applied solutions to real-world problems. If you’re ready to accept the challenge, here are some places to look for upcoming opportunities.  

  • is the official website for competitions hosted by more than 100 government agencies, with 22 challenges currently open. These challenges include the Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic Challenge featured in last week’s post. As the website states, more than 740 challenges have been hosted and over $250 million in prize money awarded since the launch of the initiative in 2010.
  • DevPost lists upcoming hackathons being held around the world. For example, the Genome Link API coding contest, sponsored by the Tokyo-based tech startup Awakens Inc., will take place Dec. 9–10 in San Francisco. Competitors can win $1,000 for developing a DNA-personalized app to help people understand and interpret their genetic codes in unique ways. Past apps include beverage-matching based on taste sensitivities and personalized fitness and diet plans.
  • The MIT Hacking Medicine group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology puts on hacking events, design-thinking workshops and networking events throughout the year to accelerate healthcare innovation. This includes the annual Grand Hack that brings cross-disciplinary teams together to develop apps in specific focus areas. Teams compete for cash prizes and potential selection of projects for a startup incubator. Check out the website for upcoming events.
  • IdeaBuzz is a platform for crowdsourcing creative solutions to global issues. The current open challenge is Social Sciences for National Security, which is sponsored by the National Academies as part of a decadal survey. The National Academies are soliciting input from social and behavioral scientists on new research areas that could positively impact national security. While no prizes are awarded, responding to requests for information helps inform the direction of future research and supports allocation of funding toward the field. 
  • Kaggle hosts competitions to find solutions to machine-learning problems across a range of industries. And there are some big cash prizes to be won, too. For example, the Statoil/C-CORE Iceberg Classifier Challenge is looking for new algorithms that can distinguish between ships and icebergs from satellite data to improve maritime safety. A total of $50,000 is being awarded. The entry deadline for this challenge is Jan. 16.
  • InnoCentive is a platform that aims to find actionable solutions to science and engineering challenges. For example, the latest challenge, sponsored by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, seeks theoretical ideas to improve protein production from automated gene-to-protein process systems. Two awards of $25,000 will be given for top proposals. Submissions are due Jan. 26.
  • DREAM Challenges, run by the nonprofit biomedical research organization Sage Bionetworks, is another platform that crowdsources innovative solutions to systems-biology and translational-medicine challenges. For example, the Multi-drug Targeting DREAM Challenge tasks participants with predicting compounds that will bind multiple medically relevant targets based on database-sourced information. The challenge runs through Feb. 26.
  • The application period for the annual Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology opens Dec. 15. This is an international prize that recognizes “exceptional neurobiological research” carried out by an early-career scientist within the past three years. Each applicant must submit a 1,000-word essay describing their research by June 15. The prize includes $25,000 and publication of the essay in the journal Science.
  • The ECNP Preclinical Network Data Prize will award €10,000 for the “best publication of negative results in neuroscience.”  The prize aims to highlight the importance of publishing negative results (such as being unable to replicate work or obtaining data that do not confirm an expected outcome) to the research community. Nominations by corresponding authors are due June 30.

Bonus job posting: And if you’re up for a challenging neuroscience career, Craig Powell at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas will be hiring a researcher experienced in brain-slice electrophysiology at the postdoc, instructor or research assistant professor level. Contact the Powell lab for more details, as the position has not been posted yet. (H/t to Roopashri Holehonnur for alerting me about this opportunity via Twitter.)

Donna Kridelbaugh is the ASBMB careers blogger. Connect with her on Twitter (@science_mentor) or at her website (

Add Comment

Text Only 2000 character limit