VIEW THE WEBINAR RECORDING

Digital Science Webinar

As part of a continuing series, we recently broadcast our fourth Digital Science webinar on scholarly collaboration and how it can be better facilitated. The aim of these webinars is to provide the very latest perspectives on key topics in scholarly communication.

Laura Wheeler (@laurawheelers), Community Manager at Digital Science, introduced the webinar and gave a brief overview of the esteemed panel.

The discussion was led and moderated by Mary Anne Baynes (@mgbaynes), Chief Marketing Officer at Overleaf, who gave an introductory overview of the key topics. These were the increase in global scholarly collaboration, how cloud-based services are helping collaboration, the institutional libraries perspective on these services and tools, and a specific example of an organisation, IEEE, embracing technology for collaboration.

Sir Chris Llewellyn-Smith, Director of Energy Research at the University of Oxford, gave a fascinating and insightful overview of the ways in which global scholarly collaboration is growing and changing. Sir Chris explained that the percentage of papers with authors in more than one country has grown from 25% in 1996, to over 35% in 2008, and that growth has continued. In the UK, the trend has been dramatic. The percentage of papers that are domestic, that have only UK authors, has dropped from around 85% to below 50%.

The percentage of papers with authors in more than one country has grown from 25% in 1996, to over 35% in 2008.

So who is collaborating with whom? The answer is that, essentially, everyone is collaborating with everyone! However there are some more specific trends within this overall picture. Inter-regional collaboration is growing faster than intra-regional collaboration, with the single exception of Europe. This has been a result of deliberate European policy, through financial incentives for intra-European collaboration.

The growth in international collaboration has been enabled by technology, the internet, email, video conferencing, cheaper air travel etc. It has been driven by the demand for quality. Researchers want the best collaborators and they want to use the best facilities, wherever they maybe located. The best collaborators out there aren’t necessarily the nearest collaborators.

Sir Chris also explained that internationally collaborative papers are cited more. However this is likely to be more complex than indicating a simple relationship with the quality of research, but the correlation is real.

Sir Chris ended by highlighting how scholarly collaboration can also be used a strategic policy initiative to facilitate geopolitical co-operation, what one might call “science for peace”, but Sir Chris argued that this can only be effective if the research is high quality.

Dr John Hammersley (@DrHammersley), co-founder of Overleaf, followed on from Sir Chris, explaining how cloud-based technologies have particularly driven the growth in collaboration. John referred to a piece of research on innovation in scholarly communication which showed that since 2005 almost all the innovations in scholarly communication have been cloud-based, i.e. accessed through a web browser. The web browser has become an important, if not essential, work environment for the modern researcher. According to John, innovative cloud-based tools and services are improving the flow of information and making the research process faster and more efficient.

Since 2005 almost all the innovations in scholarly communication have been cloud-based, i.e. accessed through a web browser.

Helen Josephine (@hjosephine), Head Librarian at the Terman Engineering Library at Stanford University, gave her perspective on the role of the library in empowering students to use innovative and collaborative research workflow tools. Specifically, Helen spoke about Stanford’s trial of Overleaf and the response from students to the trial.

Many Stanford students are required to use LaTeX, in fact LaTeX was invented at Stanford, so it was seen as having great potential to improve students’ experience. Helen was keen to stress that libraries need to see the provision of tools and information about tools as a key part of their role. So the question for libraries to consider is this, how can they best inform students about different tools and help them add them to their workflow?

86% of students said they were happy with Overleaf and didn’t want the trial to end.

Helen explained that following the launch of the trial there has been rapid uptake in use of Overleaf at Stanford, with users up approximately 300% and projects up approximately 370%. This has been a combination of organic growth and direct promotion by the library. In terms of student satisfaction, 86% of students said they were happy with Overleaf and didn’t want the trial to end.

Overleaf also has value for the library, as well as the students. The in-built analytics allow libraries to gain insights into collaboration within their institution and also on engagement and usage, allowing them to more effectively target their promotion activities. To summarise, in Helen’s own words, “Research workflow tools are needed by students and researchers. Libraries can help promote and facilitate their usage.”

“Research workflow tools are needed by students and researchers. Libraries can help promote and facilitate their usage.”

Finally Dawn Melley, Director of Editorial Services, IEEE Periodicals, shared the publisher perspective on new collaborative and cloud-based services and tools for authors. Specifically, Dawn was able to talk about her work launching Collabratec, the IEEE’s new integrated collaboration and networking platform, which is integrated with Overleaf.

Dawn explained that IEEE looked into a range of collaborative authoring services and Overleaf was deemed to be superior to all the others, hence why it was selected to be fully integrated with Collabratec.

All the tweets from the webinar have been collected together for the Storify below. Keep an eye on our blog and our Twitter for information on our next webinar, “Embracing Team Science in Pure Academic and Academic-Pharma Alliances”, which is taking place on Thursday 5th November.