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. A talk given at the 2009 Plone Symposium East.

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Scientific Collaboration with Plone: A Case Study

  1. 1. Scientific Collaboration with Plone: A Case Study Sally Kleinfeldt Plone Symposium East 2009
  2. 2. Background• Collaboration site for Advancing Green Chemistry• Fall 2008 Jazkarta project• Me? I’m an ecologist...
  3. 3. Overview• Organization• Opportunity• Solution• Lessons
  4. 4. Organization•• Mission: promote development and adoption of Green Chemistry• Shift away from an economy dependent on toxic chemicals• “ molecules with an eye to consequences right from the start...”
  5. 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. 6. Problem• How to create collaboration where there is none? How to orchestrate joint: • Conferences • Papers • Policy development
  7. 7. Solution• A private website that provides a safe, trusted environment for members to discuss ideas that might be controversial in mainstream venues
  8. 8. Solution• Website features: • Invited members • Relevant news, papers, bibliographies • Wiki-like collaboration areas • Discussion forums
  9. 9. Plone Features Well Suited to Problem• Secure document sharing• Rich pages, news, events, calendars• Wiki behavior• Commenting• Related content• Member areas
  10. 10. Add-on Products Provide The Rest• Discussions (PloneBoard)• Integrated news feeds (FeedFeeder)• Bibliographiies (CMFBibliographyAT)• Papers, summaries (Easy to create custom content types)
  11. 11. The Site• Home page with portlets for news, members, discussion posts, announcements
  12. 12. Members• Browse and search members• Portlet for most active members (based on count of content)• Portlet for most recent members
  13. 13. Member Profiles• Extra fields (projects, affiliations...)• Member area preconfigured to contain bibliography and papers (custom type)
  14. 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. 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. 16. Discussions• Implemented with PloneBoard• Not much activity
  17. 17. Ad Hoc Collaborations• New area created during conference• Notes, ideas, policy documents• Responding to opportunity presented by new administration
  18. 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. 19. Lessons Learned
  20. 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. 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. 22. What’s Easy in Plone• Features largely meet the needs• Custom content types for specific uses• Everyone gets WYSIWYG editing
  23. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 28. Questions, Discussion?