Collaboration tools for researchers

The world is getting smaller, or so it seems. Research teams are no longer limited to the same institution, the same jurisdiction, or even the same country. Collaborative research teams are very powerful and have the ability to achieve more than one entity can on its own, but how can we manage teams and work collaboratively when there is distance and time zone changes to consider?

There are many online tools and platforms, along with bespoke options for sharing information and working together. What works and does not work will depend entirely on the team using it, the requirements of the project, and of course the skills and knowledge of the collaborators themselves.

My goal here is not to advertise or recommend specific platforms, there are too many and each situation is different. It seems that the social media and online platform developers have realised the potential market of the academic world and we see many academic specific platforms appearing.

I present here a few that may be of interest for different types of collaboration, particularly for researchers.

  • Networks and interest groups

Non academic platforms that can be useful for creating networks and interest groups include LinkedIn, and Google+ communities. An academic platform for this is ResearchGate.

  • Shared document creation

Google documents, etherpad, mediawiki, fiduswriter, zoho are some of the popular resources being used to do this. Researchers can also choose to use Figshare to exchange ideas and share document with colleagues.

  • Collaborative information creation and sharing

If you require a more collaborative space for information sharing and upload then perhaps a Wiki would be a good option, or again Figshare.

  • Communications

Google hangouts and skype still seem to be a popular choice amongst the general public, however within the business world gotomeeting is now being used quite widely.

The problem with choosing and using many of the platforms is that there will need to be some time investment for all users to learn how to use the platform and in some cases the platform may need to be managed by a single individual with input from many members.

Are you using any of these platforms or have you had success with any others that you can share? I would love to hear what people are using and how they are working in different situations. Please share your experiences in the comments.