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Succesful iGEM team survey

'Successful iGEM team' survey

We conducted a survey called ‘Successful iGEM team’ and asked teams from previous years to share some information about their team structure, jobs organization and achievements in order to understand what is the best way to organise work in the team, keep and share information and let others know what your team is doing. 50 teams from different age categories responded to our survey, 14 % of them were high school teams, 42 % undergraduate and 44 % overgraduate student’s teams. Most of undergraduate and overgraduate teams were participating for 7 or more times, while high school teams equally 1-2 or 3-4 times.

Any kind of award in iGEM competition is the main criterion to be considered as successful iGEM team. 76 % of all teams that answered our survey have won at least gold medal. Around 40 % of the teams have won either silver or bronze medals. 40 % of the teams were nominated for a specific track as well as were the track winners (32 %). Also, 12 % of all teams reached the top of this competition and have gained Grand Prize. There were some teams that won First Runner Up (4 %) and Second Runner Up (6 %) prizes.

It is believed that one of the most important things to make teamwork efficient is to divide it into subgroups. That is why we asked successful iGEM teams what subgroups they had. According to the answers, the vast majority (more than 82 % ) of the teams in different age categories had laboratory subgroup. High school and overgraduate teams gave more attention to human resources, while undergraduate teams put more efforts on marketing/finances. In general, more than half of overgraduate teams had the most subgroups of all age categories – laboratory, human resources, marketing/finances, PR/media and IT. The main subgroups for undergraduate teams were laboratory, marketing/finances and human resources while high school teams had the least subgroups – laboratory and human resources. Just the small amount of all teams had no subgroups at all and ‘everybody did everything’.

One more thing which interested us was a presence of student team leader. We wanted to understand if student team leader is common for successful iGEM team or not. The vast majority (62 %) of all teams declared that they had a team leader. Then we wanted to compare work distribution in teams with a leader and without. It was really interesting that even though that teams had a leader, more than 80 % of them stated that they made a list of things needed to be done and distributed them and not that someone was giving certain tasks to each member. Moreover, almost half of them (45 %) stated, that everybody did what they liked/wanted. In teams without a leader the answers were the same – 63 % of the teams were making a list of things needed to be done and distributed them and in the smaller part of teams (37 %), everybody did what they liked/wanted. Many teams have chosen several ways to distribute jobs.

iGEM competition requires solving problems related not only to synthetic biology or life sciences in general. For this reason part of successful iGEM teams had some member from other specializations. The most popular ones were IT, mathematics and medicine. Most of the High school teams did not have any other specializations members. The reason for this might be that high school students do not have any specialisation in general. Between undergraduate and overgraduate teams, different kinds of engineering were popular (chemical, electrical, environmental, biomedicine). There were more choices for this question, such as Philosophy, Journalism and Languages, however, none of the teams had members with these specialisations.

We also asked what kind of platforms teams have used to share the files and communicate with each other. Cloud service, such as Google drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and others, were used by almost all teams (94 %). The bigger part of the teams (60 %) also stated that they use boards with pins/whiteboards. However, this answer almost never was the only one and came together with other choices. Social networks were also quite a popular way to manage the project. It is interesting, that High school teams used Skype, Teamspeak or/and mIRC almost two times more often than other teams.

For iGEM teams, media is really important for spreading the news, information and sharing their project ideas. We asked successful iGEM teams, what media platforms they used for promotion. Almost all respondent teams (96 %) stated, that they used Facebook. Twitter was the second most used (64 %). It was noticed, that in comparison with two other age categories, overgraduate teams have more often chosen Newspapers and TV/Radio, and more rarely Instagram for the promotion. Other media platforms were used more or less equally.

Finally, successful completion of iGEM project rely on the financial aid team gets. For this reason, we were curious to know, how much successful iGEM teams had to collect to finish all the project smoothly. Not all teams answered to this question (72 %). It is easy to see, that more than half of overgraduate teams got more than 25 000 USD as well as most of the undergraduate teams. For high school teams, it is a little bit easier and it might be enough to receive 3000-7000 USD in order to complete the project and win an award.

All things considered, we can highlight few things that are common for successful iGEM teams. First of all, most of them have laboratory and human resources subgroups, as well as few others, which necessity might depend on age category. Second of all, it is not necessary to have student team leader as long as a team can work smoothly by making a list of things needed to be done and distributing them. Thirdly, it might be useful to have team members with other than life sciences specializations, for example, mathematics, IT, medicine or engineering. Fourthly, the most comfortable platform to manage the project is Cloud service. Board with pins and/or whiteboards also might be quite helpful. Fifthly, the most widely used media platform for the promotion is Facebook, however, every other, such as Twitter, Youtube, Newspapers, TV/Radio, conferences and etc., can also be successfully used. And finally, it might be that quite a lot of money (>25000 USD) will be required to finish the project, so future iGEM teams should keep this in mind.


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