banner about

The Changing Dynamics of Scientific Collaborations

At CSCW 2010, February 7, 2010
Savannah, Georgia, USA

Workshop Overview

The confluence of two major trends in scientific research is leading to an upheaval in standard scientific practice and collaborative technologies. A new generation of scientists, working in large-scale collaborations, is repurposing social software for use in collaborative science. Existing social tools such as chat, IM, and FriendFind are being adopted and modified for use as group problem-solving facilities. At the same time, exponentially greater and more complex datasets are being generated at a rate that is challenging the limits of current hardware, software, and human cognitive capability. A concerted effort to create software that will support new scientific practices and handle this data tsunami is redefining the collaboratory and represents a new frontier for computer supported cooperative work. This follow-on event to a similarly themed workshop at CHI 2009 is intended to foster community among researchers and practitioners from multiple disciplines interested in the changing dynamics of scientific collaborations.

Workshop Organizers

  • Cecilia Aragon, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Jeffrey Heer, Stanford University
  • Charlotte Lee, University of Washington
  • Claudio Silva, University of Utah

Primary Contact:

  • Cecilia Aragon, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Accepted Papers

Accepted Papers

Authors: Cecilia R. Aragon, Sarah S. Poon
Title: No Sense of Distance: Improving Cross-Cultural Communication with Context-Linked Software Tools

Many studies have established the difficulties inherent in both cross-cultural and distance communication. Distance work interferes with close collaboration and trust. Physical distance and lack of time zone overlap can exacerbate cross-cultural misunderstandings. Nevertheless, international collaboration over distance is becoming increasingly common in many fields. Scientific collaborations, in particular, are becoming larger and more international in scope. There has been much research in the area of understanding cultural differences, but not as much in how technology might bridge such communication gaps in international scientific collaboration. In an effort to begin to form guidelines for such technology development, we undertook an empirical study of how computer-mediated communication tools facilitated cross-cultural communication over distance and led to greater team effectiveness in an international astrophysics collaboration.

Authors: Louise Barkhuus
Title: Collaboration Among Social Scientists

In this workshop paper we describe a preliminary study of collaboration practices among social scientists. Based on interviews with 10 social science researchers we describe how they rely on local networks as well as very tight-knit international communities. Their technology use differed according to need and particularly opportunity.

Authors: Archer L. Batcheller
Title: How Should We Tailor Software Development Practices for the Scientific Domain?

This position paper is about the process of creating software that enables new scientific practices. I take the position that creating software for scientists is different from creating software in other contexts, and that it is important to understand the modes and particularities of software engineering for scientists. I focus on the implications for requirements analysis, where various stakeholders in the project seek to negotiate and communicate their desires. I believe that our methodology for designing software and engaging stakeholders needs to vary with the specific project.

Authors: Jeremy Birnholtz, Y. Connie Yuan, Geri Gay
Title: Bridging Social and Awareness Networks in Distributed Research Collaboration

Awareness plays multiple, critical roles in the initiation and sustenance of research collaborations. Potential collaborators must first be aware of each other and their respective skills so that they can meet to discuss potential projects and begin collaborating. This type of awareness is the traditional domain of transactive memory and other theories of knowledge in organizations. Once people begin working together, however, they require awareness at a finer level of detail – who is around and available for interaction and how their shared project is progressing, for example. This has traditionally been the focus of CSCW theories and systems. We argue that these two approaches should be combined for smoother transitions from collaborative project initiation to collaborative work. We present preliminary evidence and discuss our current project exploring these issues.

Authors: Ixchel M. Faniel, Trond E. Jacobsen
Title: Reusing scientific data: A research framework

Increasing the supply and dissemination of scientific data is no guarantee it will be reused. To achieve greater data reuse, especially over the long term and on a large scale, we contend that a more systematic study of data reuse practices is needed. In this position paper we introduce a data reusability assessment framework, compare and contrast findings from its application to the earthquake engineering community with prior data reuse studies, and outline future research. Understanding data reuse is a critical dimension of designing systems and policies that support and accelerate collaborative science using cyberinfrastructure.

Authors: Aída Gándara, Paulo Pinheiro da Silva
Title: CI-Server: Towards a Collective Scientific Knowledge Environment

A well known challenge in scientific computing is the flow of information sharing in support of scientific research. The issue is further exacerbated when research is done collaboratively because more people need access to the same information, often simultaneously. The Web has emerged as a popular solution for enabling discovery and sharing of information between people and applications. Unfortunately, use of web-based technologies is not always easy. For example, two sites can be so different that searching for information on one site may have little similarity to the other. In this paper, we describe an environment that is focused on facilitating the sharing of information for scientific research. Through a server that we call the CI-Server, we support the collection of structured and unstructured scientific data as well as discussions about the data. A client-based API (CI-Client API) was created to enable access to the CI-Server from within scientific applications. Thus, scientific collaboration is supported by allowing the scientist to work with their tools while sharing over the Web instead of the traditional method of having the scientist learn new environments. As a result, scientists are not forced to learn specific web server or portal environments because the utilities that they are accustomed to using have the 'know-how' to access the knowledge collected at the CI-Server. CI-Server has been used in support of scientific activities in the areas of environmental and geo-sciences as part of a NSF-funded Center for Cyber-Infrastructure, CyberShare.

Authors: Mark Handel and Steven Poltrock
Title: Behind Great Infrastructure is Excel: Experiences from a Large Engineering Project

We describe our work in developing specialized software applications to support a large collaborative engineering program. We find that despite many of the applications being bespoke efforts, designed to the requirements of the users, virtually all major applications have an unofficial spreadsheet or database backing up the official application. This spreadsheet is invariably where the actual work of the application occurs, with the official process and system being used primarily for mandated record keeping and auditing purposes. We discuss the implications of this finding for scientific collaboration and long-term record keeping.

Authors: Auli Harju, Teemu Ropponen
Title: Tools and Practices for Open Research Collaboration

Digitalization and internet have changed academic practices, such as publishing and publicity of research results, but also the ways academics work and collaborate.

This paper presents a new type of open research collaboration, as conducted by the SOMUS research project, for discussion and further development. In this paper we describe and evaluate the tools and practices of this ongoing research project. It should be noted that we mainly discuss research practices of project management and teamwork, while particular research methods such as data gathering and analysis are excluded. This viewpoint is chosen since we have found the project management as the key issue in developing open research practices.

Authors: James Howison, James D Herbsleb
Title: Socio-Technical Logics of Correctness in the Scientific Software Development Ecosystem

Science increasingly depends on software. From configuration and control of instruments, to statistical analysis, simulation and visualization, virtually every workflow that generates scientific results involves software.1 In practice, scientific collaboration in a growing number of disciplines means drawing together different software artifacts produced in different ways, by different people, to build an ensemble artifact that does scientific work and, ultimately, provides reasons to believe scientific conclusions.

In this position paper we present an understanding of the scientific software development ecosystem that is emerging from our interviews of working scientists who develop software in the course of their science. First we describe the types of software and software development being undertaken. We then focus in on three logics of correctness that have emerged from our interviews. We demonstrate that these logics are closely linked to the social circumstances of the software's production and use and the type of software; these are socio-technical logics. We conclude by examining the implications of this understanding for shaping policies designed to maximize the return on the substantial public investments in scientific software production.

Authors: Shaimaa Lazem, Denis Gracanin, Steve Harrison
Title: Collaboration in Second Life: Exploring Social Traps

The use of social software, such as Second Life, for scientific collaboration opens many issues. We need to compare real-life ("first-life") and Second Life in terms of groups and social dynamics to explore potential problems and determine how to address these problems. Social traps are examples of social dilemma situations, where an individual acts for personal advantage that is damaging the group as a whole. Traps can be avoided, nevertheless, by the proper cooperation between the group members. A laboratory analog of social traps was implemented by Brechner in the 1970's. We built a a Second Life analog for Brechner's experiment to explore social traps and how coordination takes place in a 3D virtual world. While some of the groups that were not allowed to communicate succeeded in avoiding the trap, communication had a significant effect on how the participants regulated their resource. We observed very similar response patterns compared to the original experiment. That shows a great potential for using virtual worlds like Second Life as collaborative tools.

Authors: Charlotte P. Lee, Matthew J. Bietz, Alex Thayer
Title: Stakeholders in Cyberinfrastructure Development

Research has shown that failing to recognize and understand organizational subgroups, their cultures, and their reward systems can result in a failure of system adoption. Infrastructure building projects for science are complex forms of collaborative work that involve many subgroups. As part of an ongoing research project, we use ethnographic methods to explore the roles, categories, and relationships that are sometimes taken for granted in cyberinfrastructure research and development. We find a diversity of stakeholders and stakes in the development of a cyberinfrastructure for environmental genomics that transcends categories such as "users," "designers," and "community."

Authors: Oded Nov, Ofer Arazy, David Anderson
Title: Crowdsourcing for science: understanding and enhancing SciSourcing contribution


Authors: Emanuele Santos, Phillip Mates, Erik Anderson, Brad Grimm, Juliana Freire, Cl´audio Silva
Title: Towards Supporting Collaborative Data Analysis and Visualization in a Coastal Margin Observatory

Managing and understanding the large volumes of scientific data is one of the most difficult challenges scientists face today. As interdisciplinary groups work together, the ability to generate a diversified collection of analyses for a broad audience and in an ad-hoc manner is essential to support effective data exploration. Science portals and Web-based visualization tools have been used to simplify this task by aggregating data from different sources and providing a set of pre-defined analyses and visualizations. These, however, are expensive to build and lack the flexibility necessary to support the vast heterogeneity of data sources, analysis techniques, and information needs from multiple user communities. In this paper, we present a system that adopts the model used by social Web sites and, by combining a set of usable tools and a scalable infrastructure, simplifies the construction of science collaboratories: Web sites where groups of users can collaboratively explore scientific data. An important feature of the system is that it allows users to easily customize and publish new analyses and visualizations on the Web. We also describe our implementation of a collaborative site for the NSF Science and Technology Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction (CMOP).

Authors: Andrew J. Scholand, Yla R. Tausczik
Title: Diagramming Workgroup Interaction via Social Language Network Analysis

In this note we demonstrate how a new methodology that combines tools from social language processing and network analysis can be used to identify the nature of socially situated working relationships within a group. We call this approach social language network analysis (SLNA). We utilize this approach to create tree-like diagrams relating the linguistic categories of both long-term (15-month) and short-term (10 day) archives of discussions concerning massive high performance computing (HPC) simulations of the economic consequence of infrastructure disruptions. These example diagrams contrast the explicit mapping of short term pure technical interactions against the long term blending of social support and accomplishing work.

Authors: Andrea H. Tapia, Rosalie Ocker, Mary Beth Rosson, Bridget Blodgett, Timothy Ryan
Title: Two-Layer Structures in Scientific Collaboratories

We report preliminary results from a socio-technical analysis of scientific collaboration situated in physical anthropology research. We analyze the two-layer structure of the collaboration: one loosely coupled through shared access and use of scientific equipment, and one tightly coupled through shared creative development of research questions, data analysis and interpretation. We conclude with implications for both process and technology support.

Authors: Andrea Wiggins, Kevin Crowston
Title: Distributed Scientific Collaboration: Research Opportunities in Citizen Science

This paper introduces a conceptual framework for research on citizen science, a form of collaboration involving scientists and volunteers in scientific research. Designing CSCW systems to support this type of scientific collaboration requires understanding the effects of organizational and work design on the scientific outcomes of citizen science projects. Initial directions for future research are identified, with the goal of developing a foundation for research on and development of cyberinfrastructure and collaborative technologies for supporting citizen science.

Workshop Schedule

Sunday February 7, 2010, 8:30-5pm - Forsythe Room

8:30am - 9:00am Introductions and overview
9:00am - 10:00am 3-minute presentations from all workshop participants
10:00am - 10:30am Breakout groups
10:30am - 10:45am Break
10:45am - 12:00pm Breakout groups, cont'd
12:00pm - 1:00pm Lunch
1:00pm - 1:45pm 15-minute summaries from each group
1:45pm - 3:15pm Second set of breakout groups
3:15pm - 4:00pm 15-minute summaries from each group
4:00pm - 4:15pm Break #2
4:15pm - 5:00pm Large group discussion, post-workshop plans
6:00pm - 8:00pm Optional dinner

Workshop Goals

  1. Exchange information about new ideas and research and development of software for scientific collaborations.
  2. Develop a community of researchers on this topic.
  3. Publish a book or journal special issue based on expanded or revised contributions to the workshop, if there is interest.

Workshop Format

Workshop will be limited to no more than 25 participants to facilitate in-depth discussion. The workshop will be one day in length. Participants will be asked to prepare 3 slides for a 3-minute introduction to their work, and to read all papers in preparation for the workshop discussion.

We will spend the first hour on 3-minute introductions and presentations of the key idea of each person's research. Then we will split into three breakout groups for the next hour and a half. We will break for lunch, and encourage each group to have lunch together. After lunch, each group will make a 15-minute presentation on the results of their discussions and conclusions.

We will then split into small groups again. This will last one hour and a half. For the final 45 minutes of the workshop, we will reconvene as a large group to discuss ideas, conclusions, and future plans. We will plan to have dinner together for those who are interested.

Post-workshop activities

A group mailing list for further communication and collaboration will be generated. We will produce a summary paper or poster from the workshop discussion. We will then initiate further discussion among the group as to whether we should try to publish a book or journal special issue on the changing dynamics of scientific collaborations.