As part of a continuing series, on Thursday 6th April we broadcast a Digital Science thought leadership webinar discussing the key messages and results of Overleaf’s report on, ‘The Connected Culture of Collaboration‘. The report focuses on the varying aspects of collaboration: how collaboration is valued in science, the role of university libraries in research communication, and how the growth of open access facilitates collaboration. The aim of the webinar was to provide the very latest perspectives on the report from Overleaf and some of the contributors.

Our speakers included:

  • John Hammersley, CEO and co-founder of Overleaf
  • Liz Allen, Director of Strategic Initiatives at F1000
  • Helen B. Josephine, Stanford University Libraries

Laura Wheeler (@laurawheelers), Head of Digital Communications & Community Engagement at Digital Science, started the webinar by giving a brief overview of the esteemed panel and their backgrounds before handing over to Mary Anne Baynes, CMO at Overleaf, who moderated and questioned the panel.

Our first speaker was John Hammersley, CEO and co-founder of Overleaf. John kicked off by discussing the importance of collaboration throughout human history and how working together within social groups is a key attribute of our species success. Due to the interconnected nature of the present world, science and research have become more and more of a collaborative effort. Until recently, traditional measures of scientific endeavor have been author lists printed alongside published papers. New technologies like Overleaf are redefining this landscape – now scientists can work together in real-time. Overleaf’s report has painted a picture of real-time collaboration on an institutional level as well as an international level across multiple disciplines. This allows the identification of patterns in research which in turn could help funders assess new opportunities in the research space. John stated that we’re only just scratching the surface of what this type of real-time analysis can allow us to measure.

Image: PD-US

“Maps have always continued to evolve. At one point this [above image] was the the defacto standard for navigation and as sailors explored new territories, the maps got better and better. At the moment, with real-time collaboration graphs, we’re at this stage. We’re putting together a picture but there is a lot more to be done.”

Next, we had Liz Allen, Director of Strategic Initiatives at F1000. Liz began her presentation by noting that throughout her career, she has seen research and science continue to become more and more collaborative.

“Lots of the boundaries of collaboration are blurring and it is an interesting time to be thinking about collaboration and how it works.”

But, Liz stated that it is important to understand what works best when deciding whether scientists should or should not work together. Our intuitions tell us they should, but within certain disciplines, this may not always be the best solution. We should make a real effort to understand how all the pieces of the puzzles fit together – the Overleaf report is a good starting point.

Liz continued to stress the importance of incentivizing collaborative behavior. Within a large network of discovery, individual efforts can be lost. It is important to recognize them. Liz then introduced CRediT, a project she has been working on for the past few years that attempts to provide more than just an author list, which only gives a name and not the actual work that each researcher has carried out.

Image: Liz Allen’s Presentation

In the paper published above, 2,960 authors, 169 research institutions were involved! As you can imagine, it is a hugely difficult process to make sense of such an enormous collaboration. Liz recently wrote an in-depth blog post on her involvement with the report.

Helen B. Josephine, who recently retired Stanford University Libraries, was the last speaker to present in our webinar. The focus of her presentation was how university libraries are supporting collaboration and how they adopt new technologies and tools. Across the world, higher education is changing. Collaboration between institutions is becoming common place.

“Because of a lack of funding, schools need to work together. This factor encourages the need for collaboration.”

It’s not just patterns of collaboration that have changed. The tools and technologies have too.

Helen listed some of the tool traits that institutions may look to license.

  • Cloud-based, accessible anywhere.
  • Version control.
  • Protected/ private projects.
  • Integrate with other cloud-based storage and systems.

It is important to recognize that when a school like Stanford selects what tools they will adopt, they don’t select them with a top-down approach. They pick them on an individual basis or at a laboratory level basis. When they adopted Overleaf and Mendeley, it was after students had found and started using these tools on their own accord. Another organic method of tool discovery is through campus to campus migration. Students come to Stanford from all over the world and bring a plethora of new technologies and talents to the university.

When Stanford adopted Overleaf, Helen ran several different surveys at different times. From her October 2016 survey, 75% of Overleaf users used it for collaboration with the real-time collaborative feature ranking first in usage time. Helen closed her presentation by showing a selection of positive quotations from her survey [see slide extract below].

Image: Helen B. Josephine’s Presentation

The webinar ended with a lively Q&A debate spearheaded by Mary Anne Baynes; great questions invoked great responses! Using #DSwebinar, our audience was able to interact with our panel throwing their opinions into the mix. If you feel you still have something to say – we’re all ears! Tweet us @digitalsci using #DSwebinar.