Bootstrapping Scientific Collaboration

After working several years at university, I find it fascinating that I still don’t know what other people in this huge organization are doing in their research. I was (and still am) busy finishing my PhD thesis and this is probably one of the main reasons for this lack of knowledge. Everyone is busy minding their own affairs and simply has no time to “look around” what other people are doing in their research. You might ask yourself: why would one have interest in the work of others? I think that this question can be easily answered if we regard university as a “knowledge-generating “enterprise”. In companies with knowledge workers it is of paramount importance that knowledge flows through the company. This ensures that people are kept “in the loop” and know what is going on. Moreover, awareness of the work of others has a high potential to generate ideas for one’s own work. Ultimately this leads to more (and more interesting) scientific output and consequently to an improvement of the public awareness of scientific work at universities.

So, what can we do to do improve our internal collaboration and awareness of other scientific works? First of all, we can write about this. And by writing I do not necessarily mean to write more papers (which apart from a few people in the community are not read by a wider audience). I propose to make the scientific process to some degree visible for a bigger audience by simply blogging about the work (see my blog posts explaining idea of public paper writing). This would open the door for collaborations: simply by reading blogs from other groups what their current research is. nother possibility would be to use visual representations like tag clouds to give an overview of their work on their web pages. This often helps to get a quick impression of current group activities. There are additional outlets in social networks as well: Twitter, Facebook or Google+ could be used. Alternatively, the university could set up a Twitter Server (e.g., Status.net) of their own and create accounts for all staff members and students.

The question that remains is how to bootstrap such a process? Well, if you read this (and work at university), you are already taking part in this process. Do this with your own group: start a blog. Tweet about your work. Invite colleagues and students to follow your blog and your twitter account. Make others aware of your work.

your ikangai science team

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