Tender Text

Tender intro draft:

Executive Summary:

The application of Web 2.0 tools to the practice of research is an area with immense promise but where limited real progress has been made. We have assembled a team with a wide range of experience in developing, using, and critically analysing such services. The team is deeply embedded within the community that utilises and builds these services. However this community remains small and un-representative of the research community at large. We are therefore interested in examining both the successes of these approaches as well as reasons for lack of adoption.

We will undertake four main activities to qualitatively and quantitatively analyse the extent of use of Web2.0 tools in research. First, a literature review and aggregation of research material will be carried out to define the state of the art internationally. Second, qualitative interviews and case studies will be used to identify common themes in successful applications of Web2.0 approaches and barriers, perceived and real. Along with the literature review, this will form the basis for designing and carrying out the third activity, a large-scale empirical study. The resulting data will be analyzed using a structural equation modeling approach, which will allow us to go beyond a qualitative, anecdotal, or phenomenal understanding. It will enable us to quantify the strength of the effect of each promoter and inhibitor of the adoption of Web 2.0 tools, as well as the relative importance of the factors vis-à-vis each other. This can lead to prescriptions as to which inhibitors to tackle first, and which promoters to focus on. It will also provide empirical evidence as to which degree the use of Web 2.0 tools influences scholarly communication. Fourth, because the self-reported survey is likely to overestimate the use of Web 2.0 tools due to the self-selection bias, we will validate our data externally by undertaking a sampling-based survey. This survey will involve a search for a randomised list of researchers from a range of disciplines and environments, on a range of Web 2.0 services for scientists. As this will systematically underestimate the use of these tools, we will be able to establish the upper and lower boundaries of the "true" use of Web 2.0 tools in research.


It is difficult to step into any science related internet forum without finding the view expressed that web-based services can radically change the practice of science. From communication and messenging tools, to collaborative authoring, public review and rating sites, to social networking services, as well as the more traditional web-based tools for search, there appear to be multiple examples of effective working and collaboration practices that map well onto science. Twitter can provide instant updates of what is happening in the lab; Google Docs provides an environment for writing papers that can solve the problems inherent in emailing around documents; Wikis can capture and preserve the collective expertise of a research group; Digg-like mechanisms could replace peer review with social networking sites providing a "social search" mechanism, bringing the research you need to be aware of to your attention as well as the opportunity to find new collaborators, as and when you need them.

There are examples showing that all of these approaches are possible, and that they can offer an improvement over traditional approaches. However for every success there are many failures, and scratching beneath the surface, you will find many of the same names re-appearing in these examples. The degree to which these approaches have penetrated general academic practice appears to be extremely limited. Broadly, there are three reasons why this might be the case. First, adoption could simply be expected to be slow as practice in research does not change rapidly, systems need to change, tools need to be built. Second, there may be specific cultural or social reasons why these tools are not appropriate or are perceived as not appropriate. This may be due to the wrong tools being built, or it may be a result of scientists who were brought up in the pre-web age are not able to "get it", requiring a new generation of scientists (the so called "Google Generation") to exploit them effectively. Finally, it is possible that these tools simply do not, on average, work well in science settings.

The overall picture is likely to be complex and a combination of factors. We have therefore elected to apply a model-based approach to disentangle the contribution of these different factors both to uptake, and intention to uptake. We will apply a qualitative approach to identify web applications and services to enable the design of a quantitative survey which will be used to probe the relationships between model components (see methodology).

The Team:

We have assembled a team with a wide expertise in Web 2.0 technologies and their application to research. The team includes both commercial and academic developers, users and analysts, as well as community and policy advocates. The team has specific motivations

  • The problem (what are the issues)
  • The team (why we have the expertise)
  • Brief lit review (half page)
  • What we will produce and how (quick intro to methdology)

Methodology: (as is at Tender/Methodology with some modifications of stuff brought out to top level)

Management: Propose combination of Friendfeed room with an email list and possibly something like Remember the milk for deliverables and timings. Conversely we could use Workstreamr, a startup for which I have some invites but this seems a bit heavyweight.

Approx £10k per person/month - we need some proper costings here against the timeline.
CN: Day/month for eight months - coordination and logistics, contributions, interviews and writing (~£8k)
Victor: One full month (guiding survey design, finalising survey, analysing results), plus using Mendeley resources and developers to recruit potential survey participants, extracting and anonymizing usage data from Mendeley's server logs (~£10k)
Niall: One full month, plus one month part time (collating results, survey propaganda, writing) (~£6k)
JG: 1 month (literature review) + 1 month (evaluation/write-up) (~£8k)
Add yourselves in with amount (and some form of justification for the value)

Survey incentives: Probably at least £5k - getting responses will be a challenge so good incentives required

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License