Virtual Communities: Catalysts for Advancing Scholarship

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  • Virtual Communities: Catalysts for Advancing ScholarshipModule 7: Libraries and Collaborative Research CommunitiesDigital Libraries la Carte 2009

    John Butler Associate University Librarian for Information TechnologyUniversity of Minnesota, USA


  • OutlineVirtual Communities some definitions

    Scholarly Practices as Context for Virtual Community Development

    Real-Life Virtual CommunitiesprecursorsHarvestChoiceEthicShare

    Governance & Sustainability

    VCs Library Roles and Success Factors

  • Virtual Communities DefinedVirtual Communities (VCs)

    Virtual Research Environments (VREs)

    Virtual Organizations (VOs)

    Virtual Organizations as Socio-technical Systems (VOSS)



  • Virtual Organizations (U.S. NSF)A virtual organization is a group of individuals whose members and resources may be dispersed geographically, yet who function as a coherent unit through the use of cyberinfrastructure.Distributed across space,Distributed across time, Dynamic structures and processes, at every stage of the organizational lifecycle,Computationally enabled, via collaboration support systems, andComputationally enhanced

    Virtual Organizations as Sociotechnical Systems (VOSS) -- NSF


    A virtual organization is a group of individuals whose members and resources may be dispersed geographically, yet who function as a coherent unit through the use of cyberinfrastructure. Virtual organizations may be known by a range of names, including: collaboratories, distributed work groups, virtual teams, online communities, and science gateways. Common characteristics across different types and classes of virtual organizations include:Distributed across space, with participants spanning localities and institutions;Distributed across time, allowing synchronous as well asynchronous interactions;Dynamic structures and processes, at every stage of the organizational lifecycle;Computationally enabled, via collaboration support systems including e-mail, teleconferencing, telepresence, awareness, social computing, and group information management tools; and,Computationally enhanced, with simulations, databases, instrumentation, analytic tools and services whichfacilitate interaction with human affiliates that are integral to the functioning of the organization.Virtual organizations are often positioned in terms of their potential to advance national priorities of scientific innovation, educational development, and economic competitiveness. The proposition being that virtual organizations can more efficiently and effectively leverage the combination of diverse information and knowledge, skills and resources from different locations and thereby enhance the individual opportunity to learn and the organizational capacity to innovate. To date, however, these claims remain largely untested.*

  • Virtual Organization as Process*Relationships with a broad range of potential partners

    Mobility and responsiveness of telecommunications to overcome problems of distance

    Timing, using responsiveness and availability to decide between alternatives

    Trust between actors separated in space for virtual organization to be effective

    Source: Virtual Organization as Process: Integrating Cognitive and Social Structure Across Time and SpaceScott M. Preston

    Abstract: Virtual Organization as ProcessVirtual organization requires a different way of perceiving the world by those who wish to participate in it. There are four key characteristics of virtual organization as process. First, virtual organization entails the development of relationships with a broad range of potential partners, each having a particular competency that complements the others. Second, virtual organizing capitalizes on the mobility and responsiveness of telecommunications to overcome problems of distance. Third, timing is a key aspect of relationships, with actors using responsiveness and availability to decide between alternatives. Last, there must be trust between actors separated in space for virtual organization to be effective. This paper describes the perceptual and social requirements of virtual organization and suggests a research plan for explicating the structure, process and content of any system based on its elements. The structures of individual actors perceptions and expectations and the social processes that supply the content of their social experience must be addressed if virtual organization and its advantages are to be understood. *

  • Whatever the name, what are they really about?The Scholarship

  • Scholarly Practices as Context for VC Development

  • Faculty & Graduate StudentsBehaviorsMethodologiesPerceptionsChallenges

    Two phases: humanities & social sciences; sciences (physical, natural, life, health sciences communities):

    Strategies Undertaken

    Humanities/Social Sciences: Interviews, SurveySciences: Interviews

    Questions:Research practicesInterdisciplinary & collaborative researchResource management (organization, storage)Library research*

  • Assessment ContextGoal: Support the advancement of scholarship through understanding scholarly behavior, processes, and practices; then developing content & services that existing and new processes.

    Distributed context for scholarshipDistributed environment for content and services Focus on the research processesUnderstand trajectory of research behaviors


  • Analytical Framework

    Categorize behaviors & identify primitives (Capture the processes, workflow)

    Analyze behavioral data, trends, relationships

    Identify potential tools/new services

    Prototype tools/services; solicit scholar feedback (iterative, release-feedback process)


  • PrimitivesUniversity of Minnesota. A Multi-Dimensional Framework for Academic Support (2005-2007)

  • Primitives => BehaviorsAnnotatingAnalyzingReviewing & RatingWritingDescribingUniversity of Minnesota. A Multi-Dimensional Framework for Academic Support (2005-2007)

  • Primitives => Behaviors => DaTaAnnotatingAnalyzingReviewing & RatingWritingDescribingPublishingTeachingData SharingRights

  • Researchers WorkflowIndividual reputation managementInstitutional Research Output and Assessment

  • Real-Life Virtual Communities(+ precursors)

  • VC CharacteristicsDiscipline/field focused


    Multi-institutional, global

    Adoption at significant levels

    Community contribution / investment

  • HarvestChoice

  • HarvestChoice Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

    Large-scale global project that supports the food policy analyst community

    Compiles, harmonizes, generates, and disseminates public goods information on the potential payoffs to smallholder farmers of production and marketing innovations in sub-Saharan Africa

  • Libraries role in HarvestChoice VC DevelopmentTo build an innovative, integrated biblio-spatial search capability that blends the discovery spatial data, flat files and curated references to relevant scholarly literature.

  • Highly selective discovery base for food policy analysts seeking improvements in third world countries

    Unique aggregation and integrations (bibliospatial search)

  • HarvestChoice Google Map QueryInterface: Household AttributesHarvestChoice Database Query Widget:Crop Production Reporting Tool

    Adaptive Hypermedia 2008*

    EthicShareA Collaborative Virtual Community for Ethics Scholars

    Adaptive Hypermedia 2008*

    Online research environment for information discovery and collaboration for practical ethics scholars and students

    Open & free to all designed to enable multi-institutional collaboration between all scholars regardless of affiliation, but account creation is not restricted

    Developed by the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics, Libraries, and Department of Computer Science & Engineering

    Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation, Council on Library and Information Resources


    Adaptive Hypermedia 2008*

    EthicShare PartnershipsData:National Library of Medicine - PubMed & Catalog dataOCLC WorldCat dataOther Publishers in negotiations

    Web Services: OCLC Registry Services

    University Centers: Georgetown University Bioethics ThesaurusGovernance and Presentations at Societies by partners from: University of Virginia, Indiana University-

    Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis and Stanford University


    Adaptive Hypermedia 2008*

    Bioethics Community

    Engaged in consideration of issues in human values as they relate to health services, the education of healthcare professionals and research.

    -- American Society for Bioethics and Humanities

    Young emergent field, with enthusiasm in leading scholars for use of collaborative technologies.*

  • The Cycle of Assessment AssessDevelopEngageAgain


  • Initial Community AssessmentPlanning Grant:

    Identifying and tuning collaborative technologies for a specific community of researchers

    Held 5 site visits U of MinnesotaUniversity of IndianaUniversity of Indiana Purdue University IndianapolisUniversity of VirginiaGeorgetown University

    How do you know what you dont know? Bioethics scholars didnt use collective work sites or technologies.


  • *

  • Adaptive Hypermedia 2008*