All entries for Monday 05 December 2011
December 05, 2011
So far we’ve explored some of the online services on offer to researchers, which can help make collaboration easier, more productive and enjoyable, and hopefully you are now feeling a little bit more confident and open to collaborating. The best way to start is by engaging with a well-established collaborative team, on a project that most of us use everyday (even if we pretend not to): Wikipedia. This is surprisingly easy to do, even if you are not a technological wiz kid. Although Wikipedia started as an encyclopaedia written by “experts”, academics are not all contributing and it could be a valuable arena with which to engage and disseminate research. If your article is linked from Wikipedia, more people will read your work and your repository statistics will improve— and because Wikipedia is not a specialist academic encyclopedia, your research will have reach and impact beyond the academic community.
Researchers at Warwick are referenced on Wikipedia, for example the work of Prof. Jacqueline Labbe (English; Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies) on eighteenth-century writer Charlotte Smith is extensively referenced, and includes several talking-head videos of her discussing the life of Charlotte Smith, which can also be found on Youtube. Click on the link in Further Information (below) for examples of Warwick (WRAP) papers referenced in Wikipedia.
For the final Thing in “Collaborative Working” we are asking you to join the Wikipedia community and edit a page of your choosing (no matter how small your contribution is). You can start by simply engaging with your research field, or a field of interest. Perhaps you have recently read something of interest that is not referenced on a Wikipedia page. Simply click on the “edit” tab at the top of the page (not all pages are editable, but most are). This will bring up a text box with the editable text, to which you can then add. Help with formatting is readily available. Just follow these step-by-step instructions to get started.
Congratulations! You are now a collaborator!
- Guardian article on scholarly use of Wikipedia
- Examples of Warwick (WRAP) papers referenced in Wikipedia
- Prof. Jacqueline Labbe’s talking-head videos on Charlotte Smith (referenced on Wikipedia)
Collaboration requires a lot of on-the-go technology—phone, laptop, iPad, office computer—which in turn can create a great deal of confusion when it comes to tracking down the documents you save on each. Where did you save that file? Video? Photo attachment? If it is on your home computer and you are working at university, and that piece of information suddenly becomes crucial, it not only stalls the entire operation, but can also make you seem unorganised and unprofessional. Unless you are superhuman, and have an immense photographic memory (which I definitely don’t) you are going to need all the help you can get to keep track of the documents you pass between yourselves, keep them up to date, and be able to put your hands on them whenever required.
Why should you use Dropbox:
Dropbox is one such service that keeps track of your documents, files, photos and videos, using cloud storage to synchronize files across the internet so that they can be shared amongst users, between computers, and any mobile device that can access the internet. Importantly, Dropbox actively encourages users to share files with others by setting you up with a “Public Folder” when you register for an account. It is the only folder on Dropbox that automatically creates a public “link” to every file you put into it. Sharing the file is then straightforward. Simply click on the public folder, and right click on the file you want to share. Navigate to the Dropbox menu and click “Copy Public Link”. You can then save the link to your clipboard and paste it into any web browser you want (such as Twitter, for example). If you want to share a file with a limited number of individuals, you do not need to use the public folder. Simply create a subfolder of the files you want to share, right click it, navigate to “Options” and click “Share this folder”, you can then add the email addresses of your collaborators to the text field.
For Thing 19, we are asking you to share a document using Dropbox. Use these step-by-step instructions to get started.
- Making use of Dropbox (covers all the ins and outs of Dropbox)
- Dropbox instructions (NB: these will be useful if you are using a computer that is not on campus: you will probably be unable to install Dropbox software onto your computer if it is networked on campus.)
Most people who have worked on a collaborative project will tell you the same thing: working with others is not easy. The logistics of circulating a document amongst a team, let alone agreeing edits and /or revisions, can be a mammoth task. There can be endless emails, meetings and a muddle of attachments with “track changes”, or a jumble of saved files with various different names, and no way of knowing which is the most up-to-date. Things can quickly descend into confusion and tempers can flare. Collaboration is not just about producing a good conference paper or publication; the connections we make on these journeys are just as important, and can last our entire careers, helping to facilitate other projects and allowing us to make further connections. It is therefore vital that we conduct ourselves professionally and make the process as smooth as possible, which will not only improve the quality of the work we produce, but will impress the people we work with—potentially leading to other, progressively bigger projects.
GoogleDocs offers researchers one of the most convenient ways to collaborate on a document, without the back and forth of emails. Once you’ve created a document, simply click the blue “share” tab at the top of the page. In the Sharing Settings pane click “change” and select “Anyone with the link”, and then save. This will allow you to add the email addresses of those you would like to share the document with. Once your colleague receives the file, they simply have to click on the link to open the file and start editing. You can then edit the file together in real time, and GoogleDocs will track the revisions you both make, saving them automatically.
How to collaborate using GoogleDocs:
For Thing 18 we are asking you to create and share a document with GoogleDocs. To get started use the step-by-step instructions provided by Google:
The author for this week's theme is Francesca Scott. Francesca is a doctoral researcher in the department of English and Comparative Literature. Her research focuses on the history of midwifery, female sexuality and female health in the eighteenth century. She will be supporting your progress this week through your blogs. Or you can contact Francesca through her Research Match profile.
“Collaborate” is a tag often thrown around academia, and not everyone understands its significance. It can be inherent in what we do— say if, for example, we work in a lab or as part of a larger research project that requires collaboration in order to meet its goal. But to other researchers, its use may not be so obvious. We may have to be prompted to consider it as something worth our time and effort, especially when it seems easier to work in isolation. In actual fact, it is likely that we are all “collaborating” in one way or another, whether we realise it or not. By responding to a critic in our thesis, or by engaging with a reading group, network, class—all this is collaboration.
As researchers from the Science Policy and Research Unit from the University of Sussex have outlined, the international research community could be considered as one big collaboration in the sense that every research activity we undertake is contributing to a larger global activity, advancing the field we work in— whether that be biological sciences, statistics, applied linguistics, or eighteenth century literature.
The “Collaborative Working” tutorial will therefore explore a variety of online tools that can help facilitate collaborative work, and help us appreciate this important aspect of academia. GoogleDocs can help us collaborate on a document together in real time, avoiding sending attachments back and forth, while Dropbox allows us to store and share files with others using file synchronization, avoiding the problems that can arise when using a variety of technology. Once we feel confident with these technologies, we can then attempt to do some “real life” collaboration by updating the content on Wikipedia, thus prompting us to fully engage with this idea of “global collaboration”.
Each of these three things will also allow us to consider the connections we make with other researchers more fully, to be aware of the ways in which we collaborate, while helping us to forge new connections and to collaborate in different, and perhaps even unexpected, ways.