Scientific Collaboration with Plone: A Case Study

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Sally Kleinfeldt describes a private collaboration site created for the nonprofit Advancing Green Chemistry, and lessons learned from the project.

Sally Kleinfeldt describes a private collaboration site created for the nonprofit Advancing Green Chemistry, and lessons learned from the project.

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  • 1. Scientific Collaboration with Plone: A Case Study Sally Kleinfeldt Plone Symposium East 2009
  • 2. Background • Collaboration site for Advancing Green Chemistry • Fall 2008 Jazkarta project • Me? I’m an ecologist...
  • 3. Overview • Organization • Opportunity • Solution • Lessons
  • 4. Organization • AdvancingGreenChemistry.org • Mission: promote development and adoption of Green Chemistry • Shift away from an economy dependent on toxic chemicals • “...design molecules with an eye to consequences right from the start...”
  • 5. Opportunity • Build collaborative connections between • Green Chemistry • Environmental Health Sciences • Sciences that operate within strict disciplinary boundaries • Common thread: how chemicals interact with biological systems
  • 6. Problem • How to create collaboration where there is none? How to orchestrate joint: • Conferences • Papers • Policy development
  • 7. Solution • A private website that provides a safe, trusted environment for members to discuss ideas that might be controversial in mainstream venues
  • 8. Solution • Website features: • Invited members • Relevant news, papers, bibliographies • Wiki-like collaboration areas • Discussion forums
  • 9. Plone Features Well Suited to Problem • Secure document sharing • Rich pages, news, events, calendars • Wiki behavior • Commenting • Related content • Member areas
  • 10. Add-on Products Provide The Rest • Discussions (PloneBoard) • Integrated news feeds (FeedFeeder) • Bibliographiies (CMFBibliographyAT) • Papers, summaries (Easy to create custom content types)
  • 11. The Site • Home page with portlets for news, members, discussion posts, announcements
  • 12. Members • Browse and search members • Portlet for most active members (based on count of content) • Portlet for most recent members
  • 13. Member Profiles • Extra fields (projects, affiliations...) • Member area preconfigured to contain bibliography and papers (custom type)
  • 14. The Science • Primers on Green Chemistry and Environmental Health Sciences • Summaries of papers (custom type) • “Wiki” behavior on some sections • Admin controls on sharing tab
  • 15. News • Featured news items added to site • Two RSS feeds imported with FeedFeeder so searchable on site • To improve merged display without needing a custom view, Ross Patterson created collective.subcollectionview - provides new layout for sub-collections
  • 16. Discussions • Implemented with PloneBoard • Not much activity
  • 17. Ad Hoc Collaborations • New area created during conference • Notes, ideas, policy documents • Responding to opportunity presented by new administration
  • 18. Results • November conference - 30 invited experts • One week after election - change of administration offered a huge opportunity • Used site to quickly prepare succinct policy statement, presented to key people • Now working on scientific consensus statement, group has ownership of site
  • 19. Lessons Learned
  • 20. What do Scientists Need? • Secure, private areas for data, discussions - with control over access • Places to share • Grey literature • Bibliographies • Information about papers published elsewhere (respecting copyright)
  • 21. What do Scientists Need? • Collaboration spaces for joint authoring • Too much passing documents via email - who has the latest? • Support for all levels of web savvy
  • 22. What’s Easy in Plone • Features largely meet the needs • Custom content types for specific uses • Everyone gets WYSIWYG editing
  • 23. What’s Hard in Plone • Getting users started • Shifting from uploading docs to editing pages • Training required for some things • Folder structure, information architecture • Collections, portlets, how to set up sharing
  • 24. What’s Hard in Plone • Getting a new discussion forum off the ground... • Commenting on content is easier to instigate and should work better
  • 25. Tips for Success • Keep it simple and focussed • Develop iteratively - they won’t know what they want until they’ve seen it • Set up site structure ahead of time (generic setup) • Set up structure of Member areas too (event handler)
  • 26. Tips for Success • Train a site admin who will personally mentor the scientists (especially on bibliographies) • Beware adding features that will complicate migrations - bad for customers and gives Plone a bad name
  • 27. Tips for Success • Beware of ambitions for discussion forums, social networking features • Unlikely to be successful at small scales • Focus on what Plone is good at - content management
  • 28. Questions, Discussion?