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An alliance to advance the understanding of collaboratories
Science of Collaboratories
Workshops : Comparative Investigation

September 25-27, 2002
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Our first two workshops explored the general social and technical issues involved in collaboratories. This third workshop presented for discussion our more detailed investigations as we compare and contrast various collaboratories to begin to build some principles "bottom up" about what makes collaboratories successful. We did this at two levels of analysis: a broad survey of basic facts about numerous collaboratories we identified, and a more in-depth analysis of a smaller set of collaboratories.

The first level is an effort we call collaboratories-at-a-glance, where we are working to create an inventory of a large number of collaboratory projects that are being, have been or will be carried out. Of course, this hinges on what we mean by a collaboratory. We have been using the following definition:

A collaboratory is a network-based facility and organizational entity that spans distance, supports rich and recurring human interaction oriented to a common research area, fosters contact between researchers who are both known and unknown to each other, and provides access to data sources, artifacts and tools required to accomplish research tasks

As we gather examples of collaboratories in this "at a glace" effort, we are relaxing some of the conditions in this definition so that we create a broad set of examples that will help us refine our definition as well as understand the issues pertaining to collaboratory success. The workshop began with a presentation on this effort.

The second level of our effort is an in-depth investigation of greater detail into fewer collaboratories. We selected four collaboratory projects for initial investigation. These four are:

  • Upper Atmospheric Research Collaboratory (UARC, 1992-1998)/Space Physics and Aeronomy Research Collaboratory (SPARC, 1998-2002) - the collaboratory in upper atmospheric physics that we have been working on since 1992
  • Great Lakes Regional Center for Aids Research (GLR CFAR) - a collaboratory in HIV/AIDS research that links together researchers from four Big Ten universities (Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan)
  • Environmental Molecular Science Lab (EMSL) - a collaboratory at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Bugscope - a project at the University of Illinois that allows K-12 classrooms to remotely operate a scanning electron microscope to examine bugs

We gathered materials about these four projects guided by an extensive framework we created based on a number of hypotheses about the factors that contribute to collaboratory success. We have read papers, studied web sites, and interviewed project principals for each of these projects. Our reports from this effort constituted one of the major points of discussion at the workshop. We also reflected on the process we are using, because these four projects are just the initial set of roughly a dozen or so that we intend to pursue in detail.

The workshop was very much a working session, with lots of discussion and interaction. Each session had presenters who were responsible for the data collection and interpretation on each topic, and discussants who gave their reactions to the presentations, raised issues, and led the group in discussion.

Workshop Organizers
    Tom Finholt
    Gary Olson
    Judy Olson
    Stephanie Teasley

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