Update on the Collaboration Tools for Academics project

This is an update on the ‘Collaboration Tools for Academics’ project that many of you will have contributed to.  The project is being run by Amina Uddin, Steve Webster, Matthew Bennett, Julie Northam, Alan Fyall, Sarah Hearn and Clive Andrews on behalf of the academic community as a whole.  The project seeks to deliver a set of useful services that have been identified by the academic/research community as the most useful  in supporting collaborative work whether it be for education or research.

A service proposal document produced by the project after several iterations is available on the I drive at “I:\CRKT\Public\Research Blog Docs\CTA Candidate Service Proposals 280411.pdf”.  It shows you the set of candidate services that the academic community suggested and explains how we got there. The final section of the document promises a survey to validate the priorities of these services, this has now been completed – thanks to those of you who took part.  The results of this survey demonstrate where there is most concern and interest in support.

Service   Weighting
Install of non-standard software   392
Moving large files externally   296
Questionnaire software   293
Blogs and Wikis   236
Guidance and advice on cloud options   222

We are currently specifying these services in detail and trying to estimate the amount of work required to deliver them in order to plan their implementation.  The project has come a long way since it started with the focus being on creating a tool to enable academics at BU to collaborate with one another more effectively, perhaps via some form of ‘facebook for academics’.  On careful analysis this requirement can be meet by existing services available within the cloud or already available at BU.  The issue was more around documentation and support for some of these services. 

We also have put a lot of emphasis on the importance of being able to find collaborators at BU – the find a colleague or expert functions.  We see these as vital to unlocking the intellectual capital at BU but they have been picked up via other projects, namely the publication management system and the new content management system for our web site.  By the early autumn the find an expert or colleague functions will be enabled allowing you to search for potential colleagues or information within BU more effectively.  The Research Ontology is critical here – effectively the keywords by which we will classify our expertise and interests – and avid readers of the blog will see that we have been consulting on this recently to get your views.

2 Responses to “Update on the Collaboration Tools for Academics project”

  1. Adrian Newton

    Clearly a lot of effort has been devoted to this, and obviously work is still ongoing. We have already seen a significant improvement in cross-University communication, as a result of developing the BU Research blog. However, I would like to briefly sketch out a potential scenario. Let us assume that the research themes, which Matthew has been developing, emerge as a key focus for future collaboration. We will then need tools that foster the development of communities under each of these themes. Individuals should ideally be able to affiliate with one or more themes, and share communications under that theme (eg through a blog). They might also want to share documents and other information, for example a collaborative proposal or publication on which a number of people might work together. Rather than being able to search for colleagues, people would therefore affiliate themselves with the different themes, perhaps by linking to their academic profiles. Whatever tools are finally made available, it would be very helpful to be able to structure them around these themes, to help give them focus and identity. I’m not sure any of the tools that are currently available really enable us to do this.

  2. Lars Olsen


    I am currently a student at Copenhagen Business School, and we apply Podio for collaboration in our class. Its a simpel and very easy-to-use online work platform suitable for collaboration, project management, work delegations etc.

    Check it out 🙂