[unrev-II] Making cyberspace collaboration work

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Tue Jul 03 2001 - 07:54:02 PDT

  • Next message: Jack Park: "[unrev-II] Open Source License"

    I've pasted here the entire post from

    Making Cyberspace Collaboration Succeed
    ANN ARBOR---As research, commerce and industry become increasingly global
    endeavors, the need to collaborate effectively has never been greater. And
    as the technology that allows collaboration over distance and time
    improves, the "collaboratory"---a virtual center where people in different
    locations work together as easily as if they were all in the same
    place---is gaining appeal in science and education, as well as business and
    industry. So much so that funding agencies such as National Science
    Foundation and National Institutes of Health have taken note and are
    encouraging grantees to form collaboratories.
    But a host of challenges and issues must be dealt with if collaboratories
    are to live up to their potential, researchers at the University of
    Michigan and Northwestern University say. In an article in the June 29
    issue of Science, Stephanie Teasley, a senior associate research scientist
    in the U-M School of Information's Collaboratory for Research on Electronic
    Work, and Northwestern University Prof. Steven Wolinsky report on some of
    the benefits and opportunities collaboratories offer, as well as the
    stumbling blocks associated with a distributed problem solving environment.
    Teasley and Wolinsky are working together on an NIH-funded virtual Center
    for AIDS Research (CFAR), through which scientists at four Midwestern
    universities collaborate. Wolinsky, an AIDS researcher, directs the
    project, and Teasley is coordinating and studying the group's use of
    collaborative technology. In the Science paper, they identify several
    important issues for collaboratory users---or potential users---to consider:
    * Social and organizational readiness. "You have to have a group of people
    that are at a point in their work when they really want to work with
    someone who is not right next to them, and they've already resolved some of
    the trust issues and boundary issues about data ownership and authoring
    publication," says Teasley.
    * Technological readiness. "This is user-centered technology. It should
    follow function," notes Teasley. Her research group begins with a needs
    assessment, and then prescribes voice, video and data communication
    technology, troubleshooting everything before it gets to people's desks and
    coordinating the technology at various sites. The software used in setting
    up a collaboratory can be quite simple; with the CFAR group, "we used all
    off-the-shelf technology and haven't had to custom write anything," says
    Teasley. For other collaboratory projects, the software is built from the
    ground up to meet researchers' specific needs. * Rewards and incentives for
    technophiles In-house technological expertise can be a boon to any
    collaboratory. But while a lab benefits from a technologically savvy
    member, it is essential to find ways to recognize and reward the
    contribution of researchers who have gotten off the mainstream track of
    doing science to manage the technology that supports the science.
    * Finding time. Once the technology is in place, another hurdle can be
    fitting time for cyber-collaboration into already overloaded schedules. "A
    lot of the richness and real value that people are finding in these
    collaboratories is this opportunity for real-time interaction," says
    Teasley. "That is real time though; you have to make time to go over the
    data, and you've got to make time that coincides with your collaborator's
    time." In addition, data can pile up more quickly when researchers work
    together than when they labor alone, and that is a mixed blessing. "More
    data is always great but it can be a headache," notes Teasley. "How do you
    manage it? What form it will take? Where will it reside, and who will have
    access to it?"
    Once a lab has cleared the hurdles to getting a collaboratory going, the
    rewards can be great and the applications broad. A cyberstep beyond
    asynchronous data sharing, in which researchers just take what they want
    from an online database and leave, the collaboratory allows researchers at
    remote locations to interact with each other; hold lab meetings and
    dynamically manipulate data, all in real time.
    For example, a clinician who collected a tissue sample from one of his
    patients can interact with a second clinician at another site who did a
    microscopic analysis of the sample and with a pathologist who interprets
    the sample. In some instances, collaborative technology simply allows
    people to do better and faster something they already were doing. For
    example, a group of the CFAR scientists developed a clinical protocol in an
    hour and half, a process that previously took months to negotiate when done
    asynchronously with e-mail, faxes and phone calls.
    In other cases, innovation in scientific practice can also result. In a
    collaboratory for upper atmospheric space scientists, computer modelers
    work closely with instrument specialists. The collaboratory allows them to
    run the model simulations just minutes before a radar reading is recorded.
    The modelers get immediate feedback from the radar people on the accuracy
    of their model, the radar specialists get feedback about where to direct
    the instruments to capture the best data available. "The fact that those
    two types of scientists are working together and publishing together
    represents an innovation for that field," says Teasley.
    "In short," says Teasley, "whether providing support for existing practice
    to occur between geographically distributed colleagues or creating the
    opportunity for distant colleagues to make innovations in their field,
    collaboratories offer great promise for science, industry and education.

    Community email addresses:
      Post message: unrev-II@onelist.com
      Subscribe: unrev-II-subscribe@onelist.com
      Unsubscribe: unrev-II-unsubscribe@onelist.com
      List owner: unrev-II-owner@onelist.com

    Shortcut URL to this page:

    Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jul 03 2001 - 08:10:34 PDT