Using social network sites and visualizations to lower the barriers to cross-site and socio-ecological research in urban systems

Bethany Cutts
Elizabeth Cook
Rebecca Hale
Michele Romolini
Kirsten Schwarz

We propose using this workshop as a follow up session to the Identifying the benefits and barriers to graduate student cross-site socio-ecological research in urban systems GSS workshop. We will focus on developing features for a networking tool that links graduate students doing socio-ecological research in urban systems across the LTER network. During this meeting, we will brainstorm (and possibly test or create) effective networking tool(s) to facilitate students’ cross LTER collaborations and research. The outcome of this discussion and workshop session will be included in the manuscript developed at the GSS workshop and subsequent follow up ASM workshop, as a potential new networking tool. The networking tool developed at this workshop will also be submitted to the LTER newsletter for publication. The tool will allow graduate students (and others) an interactive way to navigate the data and culture of LTER sites. An interactive visualization, rather than text, can allow for superior “hyperflow” through information and allow them to identify scientists in their networks and the networks of peers in ways that can aid their educational development.

The LTER projects and LTER network are in a category of large research grants that can provide interdisciplinary training to graduate students. While the primary goal of this type of grant is research, there are many ways to incorporate graduate student education and facilitate graduate student innovation with minimal effort and resources extended. Tools that facilitate graduate student self-selection into cross-site and interdisciplinary opportunities are grossly underdeveloped. Identifying the appropriate methods and approaches to adequately address research questions is challenging. This is especially for those new to the LTER network or without direct personal connections to scientists in different fields working at different sites. For those who are unfamiliar, data can seem buried in the website and it can be hard to interpret the organization’s culture.

Navigating websites and relying on published studies as ways to understand the science and organizational culture at a site is often insufficient; often navigating a site relies on knowing its underlying structure and information about individual projects is often presented with little attention to connections across projects and few opportunities for users to customize the way they explore content beyond using search menus. While co-authorship networks have been used to visualize previous collaboration, there have been few products developed to use networks to facilitate future collaboration.
We propose developing a visualization that capitalizes on other characteristics of the research culture (like methods, theories, and sponsored project information) and innovation within and between research sites through a more comprehensive, contemporary, and dynamic method than simply tracking published science. We envision the visualization as an interactive tool that allows users to manipulate information to provide intuitive access to information based on their own interests. This endeavor would result in a webtool that would complement the structure and content of organizational websites.

In the workshop, we will: (1) review the barriers to cross-site collaboration elicited in the Identifying the benefits and barriers to graduate student cross-site socio-ecological research in urban systems GSS session, (2) discuss the advantages of visualization as a mechanism for better comprehension of the culture of science, (3) investigate critical data and visualization manipulation capabilities, and (4) evaluate the best way to maximize participation and the sustainability of the tool.

Session Info

Working Group Session 5

Wed, 09/16/2009 - 10:00am - 12:00pm
Reusch Auditorium Dodge
Working Group Materials