International teamwork: Anthony Doesburg on collaborations

By Grant Jacobs 22/03/2010 4

I’d like to point readers to Anthony Doesburg’s article in the NZ Herald on international collaborations in science. This article introduces a local perspective to the Royal Society of London’s recently announced initiative to ’map and analyse where, why and by whom science is being carried out around the world, and how this is changing’. The results to be released in November this year.

Doesburg writes:

The modern collaboration tool is the data network, the most common of which is the internet. Smith thinks the web is lifting the standard of science by increasing international collaboration,

I agree, but I’d add that collaborations also rely on trust and people who have the wherewithal to make collaborations happen. I believe that despite this face-to-face meetings help. Video conferences can offer this, as his article says, but I’d be interested to hear if readers consider this a true replacement for, say, meeting through an arranged lab visit or day to one side of conference.

As an aside an interesting claim in the article is that each dollar invested in KAREN yields four in return. (It makes you wonder if the local plan by a group of businessmen to establish a direct fibre link to the USA and Australia read that!)

Readers are welcome to share their thoughts on international collaborations, networking (both computer and social) and ’all the rest of it.’ It’s an open-house in the comments!

HT: @KARENnews. (@KARENnews is the twitter newsfeed for the KAREN network; KAREN=Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network).


Another form of networking that blends both the use of the internet (or WWW) and social networking are the science-oriented networking software or websites. It would be interesting to hear of people’s experiences in using these for generating or maintaining collaborations.

4 Responses to “International teamwork: Anthony Doesburg on collaborations”

  • On collaboration:
    Science is also competition. The public and politicians think that collaboration is always good for science. Whereas healthy competition and ego’s are an essential part of science. Just read a biography of Newton.
    On social networking for scientists:
    The first problem we have to solve is how to confirm the identity of contributors. In my opinion only social sites created and maintained by learned societies will be able to do so.

  • Having just read this post Grant, I can say that not only do I conduct collaborative work over the internet, I also present training modules over the net as well. This is because circumstances have been such that it’s not been possible for me to attend in person, most recently because of the Icelandic volcanic ash problems. I speak to customers and collaborators via Skype or some such similar medium.
    The biggest problem I had recently was having to give a presentation where I couldn’t see my audience so I couldn’t assess their reactions (whether I needed to clarify points, repeat things in a different way, etc.). The feedback was that the course was excellent, so the internet presentation did not hamper the presentation. In fact, it demonstrated that I do not have to be physically present in a given country in order to give evidence or provide scientific advice.
    Giving expert evidence over the internet is also relatively common these days.
    As for whether international collaborations using cyberspace result in an increase in the quality of science, I think it can do but you are right that trust has to come into it. I recently completed a TechNZ project with international collaborators, which wouldn’t have been possible without the internet. I am also supervising a couple of small research projects in England, largely because we can communicate over the net; we have a meeting later this week so that I can see, via webcam, what the problems are and so we can talk through potential solutions. Without the internet, that wouldn’t be possible.
    The use of the internet has meant that a move to NZ was feasible for me and, in fact, I do more internationally-based research now than I ever did when I was in the same countries as the people with whom I now collaborate.

  • Hi Anna,

    Thanks for your extensive thoughts.

    You’ll laugh (I am only kidding), but you writing about your use of webcams reminds me of the TV series Bones! :-)

    Another thing I found video-conferencing used for is job interviews: much cheaper than flying someone over to visit, etc. Less time involved for the candidates too.

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