In conjunction with the Human-Centred Computing group at the Department of Computer Science, Dr Louise Bezuidenhout was awarded an EPSRC GCRFC grant for the project Ethical Equipment Hackathon for Improved R&D Capacity in LMIC. This project addresses a key challenge for research in low and middle-income countries, namely the scarcity of laboratory equipment. While considerable effort has been made to improve R&D capacity in these regions, many research facilities still struggle with a lack of “core funding” to maintain and upgrade natural/life science laboratory facilities. A common problem involves the difficulty of acquiring and maintaining the small pieces of software-based equipment that are vital for daily research activities. The absence of this equipment slows research progress and the time taken to train and graduate students, and affects the range of research streams available to scientists in these settings.
Rather than attempting to overcome resource shortages through one-off capital investments, the project will pilot a novel hackathon format, in which local researchers will design and produce equipment in situ and develop long-term skills. The first hackathon will take place in Harare, Zimbabwe, in early 2018 and will bring together multidisciplinary groups of students from computer science, engineering, natural/life science, social science and economics. They will be challenged to design and produce software-based laboratory equipment. Their work will be assessed by local expert judges according to a number of categories including simplicity of design and cost-effectiveness, ethics and responsible design principles, contextual appropriateness and user-responsiveness.
The project webpage can be found here: http://www.cs.ox.ac.uk/projects/EthiHack/