Social networking for research collaboration
January 29, 2008 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Social networking for research collaboration?

I've been toying with the idea of building a site to facilitate research collaboration. I'm recently out of academia, phd in computers/ math/ neuroscience. I think that doing research is very rewarding, as it is interesting, exciting, challenging, creative.... Now I am out of academia, not working in something directly involving research and am missing it. I am sure I am not alone either. The number of phds that actually get jobs with a significant research component is not high. I'm trying to figure out if thats really a problem though. It seems like someone who goes to art school to be painter is a painter whether they exhibit their work at a gallery or not. In research though, your context seems to make a difference, you're a researcher if you are active in a place of research, a context. A place offers resources and an environment to be active within. But really, the most important ingredient of a research context is people to talk to. A good collaboration can make a huge difference in research. Someone to sound ideas off of, to brain storm problems with, to share in their ideas, creativity and enthusiasm. While good collaborations are very rewarding, even within academia, building such relationships is not easy. Its not clear who has similar interests, wants to collaborate and is available to do so.

So I am toying with the idea of a way to facilitate the formation of research collaborations... and I am not sure what a good way to do this might be, which is why I am asking for your help and ideas. The target audience is people actively involved in research or with a research background that are interested in forming research relationships. Potentially, a way to do this is to form a kind of social networking site, maybe with a mefi flavor or a facebook one. With my limited brain I can only envision so much.. so I guess I have a few questions for you, but any opinions on it would be useful:
1) Is this something that would interest people?
2) What ingredients should it have to be useful?
3) What pitfalls would need to be addressed?
4) What information would people want to put up and not put up?
5) How do you keep it open while keeping it relevant and free from unwanted solicitations?
6) What kinds of collaboration structures (online or otherwise) could it facilitate?
posted by blueyellow to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think this is a great idea. I'm doing a PhD in Applied Mathematics and would love to interact with more people outside the department in what they're up to. It seems like the only time this really happens is at different math meetings or conferences once or twice a year; having a continual way to keep up with each other would be great. I just wouldn't want it to become a chore to maintain.

Maybe like arXiv + a wiki or something like that? I could see it becoming a magnet for physics crackpots at worst, but also really valuable for people who rely on nothing more than email for research relationships.

Keep me/us posted.
posted by virga at 8:29 AM on January 29, 2008


1) Is this something that would interest people?

I'm interested - seems interesting to me.

2) What ingredients should it have to be useful?

Some air of simplicity, for it is all too easy to get lost in literature and mess. That's what really attractive about MeFi some days - a simple setup, using pleasing colors, focused on the interactions.

3) What pitfalls would need to be addressed?

People who go overboard and want to yap yap and yap about what they feel on every single subject/topic. Also people who want to crush ideas so they can be "right". That will stifle participation.

4) What information would people want to put up and not put up?

It would be kind of worrisome to discuss too much on a public forum, for worry of ideas getting taken/stolen/appropriated. Actually, that's probably a really huge pitfall.

5) How do you keep it open while keeping it relevant and free from unwanted solicitations?

Somebody's going to have to mod it, unless you get diggy with it or do like the AOIR and get stringent about people using their real information.


6) What kinds of collaboration structures (online or otherwise) could it facilitate?


That's a good question.
posted by cashman at 8:41 AM on January 29, 2008


In principle I'm very interested in something like this.

I think that by far the biggest problem is that people are afraid to post their serious research ideas to the public Internet: if you're wrong you risk looking stupid, if you're right you risk having your idea stolen.
posted by em at 9:36 AM on January 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


You could password-protect the meaty parts.
posted by rhizome at 9:39 AM on January 29, 2008


Nature Network (and I think I've heard about a couple of other projects too) - probably worth playing with it and seeing what you like and don't like about it! Never used it myself.
posted by edd at 9:48 AM on January 29, 2008


Have you looked at http://network.nature.com? It may already be fulfilling some of the roles you have envisaged for your network.

I've also seen (and forgotten the URL of) another social network for scientists that lets you store, tag and share papers and references.
posted by roofus at 9:55 AM on January 29, 2008


There is something like this for the biological and medical sciences called BioMed Experts. I saw a demo of it at a conference earlier this month and found it pretty fascinating.

It's a free site; I've registered and played around with it a bit, to see what it can do. You can find a specific researcher and locate first level authors (with whom that researcher co-wrote papers) and second level authors (those researchers with whom the initial author's co-authors wrote) and see those associations in a visual map.
posted by medeine at 11:59 AM on January 29, 2008


Thanks for all your input. I think at this stage it makes sense to organize people who would be interested in something like this. So please let me know you are interested by emailing me at researchcollaboration@gmail.com . If you know of anyone else interested please feel free to let them know as well. I will keep who ever contacts me updated and probably consult with them.
posted by blueyellow at 12:22 PM on January 30, 2008


blueyellow, I just sent you an e-mail. Please do keep me/us posted!
posted by tickingclock at 1:07 AM on January 31, 2008


Something like the LTER directory may be a good place to start.
posted by Tehanu at 6:29 PM on February 2, 2008


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