Planning teamwork – 10 questions for a “collaboration pre-nup” before you start a project

The original version of this post first appeared on the Trellis blog. This is a revised version with some additions.

Last May, I attended was the 4-day Science of Team Science conference where the focus was on what we can learn about collaboration within science.

The opening workshop was a grounding in the fundamentals of team science – including discussing the pitfalls of team-based projects and how to communicate effectively when team members may come from diverse specialisms with their own sets of jargon and beliefs.

I particularly enjoyed Kara Hall’s 10 steps to consider when planning a team – which listed everything from assessing whether you have the technology in place to get your collaborative work done, to whether you have clearly outlined conflict resolution strategies if things go wrong.

Continue reading

Considering Community: What types of community are there? (Part one, science edition)

In one of my early Considering Community posts I outlined several broad types of community – from communities of interest to communities of circumstance – and I mused on whether the different types might use online tools distinctly.

In reflecting recently on the different communities represented in the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program that I run, I realised that it’s time to dive a little deeper on this topic – considering some of the different configurations of community specifically within science. 

In this first post on the topic, I discuss professional societies for scientists and what I call infrastructure or “halo” organisations. For each, I raise some questions to consider when pondering the role of the community manager to build connections among members.

Continue reading

Community Manager musings: change agents by another name?

Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science. 

Last week I attended a super workshop on netweaving within and among STEM education networks – learning much about the literature and terminology of netweaving in the process.

From all I heard, netweavers are analogous to community managers with many skills and theories in common – just with different terms and disciplines (more on that need for synthesis across fields in another post).

I thought this description of the traits of a netweaver by Bruce Goldstein was particularly helpful for adding another layer to how we think about the people who build networks within science. Netweavers are:

  • experimental
  • comfortable with uncertainty
  • hungry for change
  • want to be a disruptive force from within

I particularly like how this list highlights traits that can be found in those people pushing for culture change, while working within established systems. We spent a lot of time during the mid-year meeting of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows talking about organisational structures and the challenges of negotiating culture change so the idea that the above traits are necessary in a community manager makes a lot of sense to me.

Do you identify yourself in this list of traits? Is there anything missing? Can all community managers also be described as change agents?

Community Manager musings: A web of skills “held in tension”, rather than a skills wheel?

Community manager musings is a series of occasional posts looking at the roles and skills of community managers – usually within science. 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the skills and traits that make a community manager. It’s a challenging role to define because it combines tactical, deliberate actions with emotionally and culturally sensitive leadership. Last week, at a netweaving workshop for those building networks of STEM educators, I learned about this skills web by Bev Wegner-Trayner.

Social learning leadership skills web by Bev Wegner-Trayner. Original version here: http://wenger-trayner.com/all/social-learning-leadership/

 

Continue reading

Building interdisciplinary communities – what hurdles do we need to overcome?

The original version of this post first appeared on the Trellis blog.

Last summer I took part in a session at the ESOF16 conference on building interdisciplinary communities. ESOF – the EuroScience Open Forum – is a biennial conference focusing on various European science and science communication activities, with a mixture of different session formats.

In our session, one of the other presenters, Ismael Rafols, gave a good overview of some of the different barriers to successfully building community, which I’ve listed out below (taken directly from his slides).

1. Cognitive distance – Shared knowledge bases facilitate exchange while differences (e.g. in instruments, methods, theories) inhibit collaboration.

2. Geographical distance – physical distance matters as spatial co-location favours exchange of knowledge that is complex or difficult to transfer.

3. Organisational distance – membership and/or position in shared hierarchical structures influence coordination between actors

4. Regulatory or normative distance – norms, rules and values create incentive systems that influence how actors behave, and their priorities for interactions.

5. Social distance – exchange is aided by social relations that improve trust, communication and coordination.

Continue reading

Why do academics use academic social networking sites?

The original version of this post first appeared on the Trellis blog.

Earlier this week in a panel discussion about technology for academic collaboration at the Science of Team Science conference, I mentioned a recent paper, which asks “Why do academics use academic social networking sites?” The paper presents the results of a survey of 81 researchers at three Israeli institutes who were asked about their motivations for using ResearchGate and Academia.edu.

The survey draws upon the Uses and Gratifications theory from the field of media studies for its research questions – exploring whether the five broad motivations for media consumers may also apply to academics that use online professional networks. Here we outline that theory and then highlight some of the findings from the paper.

Continue reading

Considering Community: The four stages of the community lifecycle

Considering Community: The four stages of the community lifecycle

Social in silico includes a series of occasional posts focused on community management tips and related information. I’m tagging these Considering Community and you can find all the posts in the series here.

This post first appeared on the Trellis blog.

Building online communities can be hard. Maybe you start a discussion and nothing happens – silence. Or maybe last week saw lots of conversation but this week you’re back to worrying that you’re talking to yourself. Combine that with the lack of training and resources for community managers and you can be left confused about what to do to help your community activate and grow.

One of the resources that I’ve used a lot at Trellis is the four-stage lifecycle model presented in Rich Millington’s book, “Buzzing Communities”. Millington’s model is based on a systematic review by Iriberri and Leroy which synthesized the results of 27 papers about online communities to create a model for how online communities progress. This lifecycle model is key if you’re a community manager because it explains clearly what to expect at each stage – and what you should be doing to move things along to the next.

Continue reading