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Over the last hundred years, science has become an increasingly collaborative endeavor. Scientific collaborations, sometimes referred to as “collaboratories” and “virtual organizations”, range from those that work closely together and others that are more loosely coordinated. Some scientific collaborations revolve around sharing instruments (e.g., the Large Hadron Collider), others focus on a shared database (e.g., the Sloan Sky Digital Survey), others form around a shared software base (e.g., SciPy), and others around a shared scientific question (e.g., the Human Genome Project).

Our work focuses on scientific collaborations that are driven by a shared scientific question that requires the integration of ideas, models, software, data, and other resources from different disciplines. These projects are particularly challenging because they require:

  • significant organization and coordination, as people with diverse backgrounds are supposed to first discover one another and then find common ground to collaborate
  • retaining users over the long term, since people need clear incentives to remain involved for the long period of time that such projects are active
  • incrementally growing the community with unanticipated participants, as they bring in skills or resources needed as the project is fleshed out

For all these reasons, even though such scientific collaborations do occur they are not very common. Yet, they are needed in order to address major engineering and science challenges in our future.


This project is developing the Organic Data Science Framework (ODSF) to support scientific collaborations that revolve around complex science questions that require significant coordination to synthesize multi-disciplinary findings, enticing contributors to remain engaged for extended periods of time, and continuous growth to accommodate new contributors as needed as the work evolves over time.


ODSF addresses these challenges with a collaborative user interface that supports:

  1. self-organization of the community through user-driven dynamic task decomposition,
  2. on-line community support by incorporating social design principles and best practices,
  3. an open science process by capturing new kinds of metadata about the collaboration that provide invaluable context to newcomers.


With ODSF, users formulate science tasks to describe the what, who, when, and how of the smaller activities pursued within the collaboration. The interface is designed to entice contributors to participate and continue involved in the specific tasks they are interested in. The framework is in its early stages of development, and it evolves to accommodate user feedback and to incorporate new collaboration features.


For more information, please visit these sites:


File:Nsf-logo.gif This work is supported by the National Science Foundation through the INSPIRE program with grant number IIS-1344272.

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