Brainhack: how we roll
The Brainhack meeting series have recently been introduced in the following paper. So you want to run a brainhack? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you make it a success:

Who? When?

In planning a brainhack, the first questions to answer are
  1. when to organize it? 
  1. who is the intended audience?
Things to consider:
  • The brainhack format works better with 30-80 participants
  • If you aim to attract more international participants, choose dates for your brainhack immediately before or after a large international conference, and use a location that is close to that conference.
  • Brainhacks can be organized with only local folks, provided a large, energetic enough community is present in a given institution or city. Check for conference dates and poll potential participants to avoid conflicting with major meetings. 
  • For the past couple of years there have been distributed Brainhack events, organized by Cameron Craddock. This is a coordinated series of brainhacks happening in parallel across several cities/countries. This gives more visibility to local events, and gives participants the opportunity to engage with a larger community in the comfort of their own home town, notably through slack. 


Next thing to do is secure a location. There are several viable options:
  • hacker/maker/citizen science space. Many large cities now have a variety of spaces dedicated to hacking, making things, as well as lab spaces opened to anyone. Running hackathons is often part of their mission and they can offer cheap options for hosting. It is also a vibrant environment to run a hackathon. 
  • Academic institutions are also a great option. They are often able to accommodate workshops for free. 
  • Spaces dedicated to creation, and innovative approaches to teaching. Maybe less conventional for academics, this type of organizations has shown interest in brainhacks in the past. They sometimes have sponsorship available. 
Things to consider when choosing a location: 
  • There needs to be a room that can host presentations. You need a projector, and comfortable sitting for all participants in a single room. 
  • There also needs to be some work space where participants can break up into smaller groups. Ideally this space would be separate or at least not fully overlap with the presentation room. This makes it possible to have focus group presenting on a topic, while other participants keep on hacking. 
  • work space should ideally include white boards and plenty of working surfaces and power outlets to avoid overcrowding, but this of course must be balanced with the other considerations.
  • The ideal situation is to have the work and presentation rooms connected
  • Possibility to have onsite food and lodging is a big plus. 
  • Brainhack is an event focused on creation. The beauty of a space is a big intangible to consider. 


A detailed explanation of the activities held during a brainhack can be found in this paper. The typical schedule looks like:
Day 1:
  • 9:00-9:30 Breakfast
  • 9:30-10:00 Introduction to brainhack, presentation of the space and schedule
  • 10:00-11:00 Project pitches
  • 11-00-12:30 Team organization & open hacking
  • 12:30-13:30 Lunch
  • 13:30-16:30 Open hacking
  • 16:30-18:00 Unconference
  • 18:00-20:00 Dinner
  • 20:00-(...) Open hacking
Day 2:
  • 9:00-9:30 Breakfast
  • 9:30-11:00 Unconference 
  • 11:00-12:30 Open hacking
  • 12:30-13:30 Lunch
  • 13:30-16:30 Open hacking
  • 16:30-18:00 Unconference
  • 18:00-20:00 Dinner + social
Day 3