Page last updated at 08:48 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Strength in science collaboration

Advertisement

Rory Cellan-Jones talks to the developers of Google's 'next-generation' messenger service on 30 September 2009

Google Wave is proving its worth in the scientific community, as one of the new collaboration tools which scientists are using to work together and conduct research.

"Google Wave offers two specific things," says Cameron Neylon, senior scientist for bio-molecular sciences at the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

"What it looks like is this cross of e-mail and instant-messaging, which is great fun. Where it really wins for science is that actually these documents or 'Waves' can be made automated so we can connect up documents and ideas with each other."

He says the real power of tools like Google Wave lies in automation - where it collects data without any need for extra human effort.

"A particular chemical compound, for instance, could be labelled and linked back to a database," adds Mr Neylon.

"That lets us start to link up all the references to that single chemical compound and connect all of those together. But it can also do all this without necessarily requiring the user to do too much work."

Pairing people and papers

Victor Henning is the co-founder of Mendeley, an online collaboration tool which was created specifically for scientists.

The free software allows scientists and researchers to upload papers which are then trawled for bibliographic data - author, title, issue and so on - and paired up with similar papers already in the database.

Using those tools to more effectively push those objects around to other scientists has got to be a good thing.
Cameron Neylon

Mendeley is supposed to take the work out of managing these [research] papers.," explains Mr Henning.

"You can just drag and drop your collection of PDFs into the software and it'll automatically extract all the bibliographic data - all of the stuff that you'd usually have to type in manually.

"What Mendeley is designed to do is give you recommendations which compliment your existing library."

Biggest thinkers

The software is proving a hit with high-profile scientists working within top institutions including MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Cambridge and the University of Michigan.

Mr Henning says the site has roughly 70,000 users, and is growing at a rate of 40% each month.

He says the site's current features will remain free, but they hope to build up a profitable model too.

"We will be introducing additional premium features later this year, such as more storage space, more sharing features for labs."

DIGITAL PLANET
Digital Planet is the weekly technology programme broadcast from the BBC World Service
It is broadcast on Tuesday at 1232GMT and repeated at 1632GMT, 2032GMT and on Wednesday at 0032GMT
It is also available as a podcast
It can be found on the social networks Facebook and Orkut

The key to these sites is putting scientists in touch with fellow researchers and academics in a way that was only before possible with word of mouth or extensive, time-consuming networking.

"The power of Web 2.0 tools is they allow people to share a huge range of objects - they might be pictures, text, or just raw data," concludes Mr Neylon.

"Using those tools to more effectively push those objects around to other scientists has got to be a good thing."



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Science enters the age of Web 2.0
26 Oct 09 |  Technology
Google's 'next-gen' messenger
30 Sep 09 |  Technology
Google invites users to join Wave
30 Sep 09 |  Technology

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific