Collaborative technologies – facilitating how we do work together

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

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Science of Team Science (SciTS) conference in Clearwater Beach, Florida where I took part in a couple of sessions, and moderated a third. Here I’m going to share some reflections from the first session which focused on collaborative technologies for academic collaborations.

Illustration from Think Quarterly by Matt Taylor

The uses of collaborative tools

The first activity that we used to open the session involved gathering the names of current online tools and grouping them into 5 broad categories. The categories, suggested by workshop co-organiser Ryan Watkins, covered different reasons for using online tools. I’ve listed each below, with my interpretation added alongside:

  • Project management and communications – tools that allow users to organize and communicate with one another about their group-based work.
  • Sense-making – tools that enable discussion and idea sharing that leads to participants forming or refining their knowledge and beliefs about topics.
  • Knowledge sharing – tools that enable the dissemination of information.
  • Acquisition of knowledge – tools that enable active searching for information or passively receiving updates about new information.
  • Data analysis – tools that enable the sharing and computation of raw data.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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