Although scientific research has always been a social activity, in recent years the adoption of Internet-based communication tools by researchers (e.g., e-mail, electronic discussion boards, electronic mailing lists, videoconferencing, weblogs) has led to profound changes in social interaction and collaboration among them. Research suggests that Internet technologies can improve and increase communication among noncollocated researchers, increase the size of work groups, increase equality of access to information by helping to integrate disadvantaged and less established researchers, help to coordinate work more efficiently, help to exchange documents and information quickly (Carley & Wendt, 1991; Nentwich, 2003). There is abundant research on new forms of group work originated from the use of computer technologies. Carley and Wendt (1991) use the term extended research group to refer to very large, cohesive, and highly cooperative research groups that, even being geographically dispersed, are coordinated under the supervision of a single director. The term collaboratory is also used to refer to similar groups (Finholt, 2002). Although there is much research on how Internet technologies are used by unified and cohesive work groups to collaborate (e.g., Moon & Sproull, 2002; Walsh & Maloney, 2002), less attention has been paid to how the Internet facilitates collaboration among researchers outside these highly cohesive groups. Weblogs (blogs) can become a useful tool for this type of collaboration and for the creation of virtual groups. Weblogs are frequently updated Web pages, consisting of many relatively short postings, organized in reverse chronological order, which tend to include the date, and a comment button so that readers can answer (Herring, Scheidt, Bonus, & Wright, 2004). They enable users to communicate with a worldwide nonrestricted community of people in similar fields, which leads to several forms of collaboration. The purpose of this article is to present a brief overview of the uses of weblogs as tools for research e-collaboration.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Personal Knowledge Publishing: The use of Weblogs by knowledge workers or researchers to make their observations, ideas, insights and reactions to others’ writing public.
Blogroll: A list of links to Web pages the author of a blog finds interesting.
Trackback: A link to notify the blogger that his/her post has been referred to in another blog.
Weblog: A frequently updated Web page, consisting of many relatively short postings, organized in reverse chronological order, which tend to include the date and a comment button so that readers can answer.
Scholarly Skywriting: Using multiple e-mail and topic threaded Web archives (e.g., electronic discussion) to post information that anybody can see and add their own comments to.
Comment: A link to a window where readers can leave their comments or read others’ comments and responses from the author.
Research E-Collaboration: The use of e-collaborating technologies in order to share information and discuss issues which contribute to advancing knowledge in a specific area.