Overview of social features in Science 2.0 platforms

It’s been a while since I my first blog post but I’m still alive and I’d like to tell you about some of things I’ve done lately. During the last week I’ve started with the first part of my literature study. I’ve been looking at some of the Science 2.0 platforms which try to introduce online social networks for sharing papers, ideas, … . I’d like to give you an overview of the social features they offer in this blog post. I’ve done this to let me get a better overview of social features that might be useful to add to repository software.

In my next blog posts I will be tackling some other aspects of Science 2.0 platforms like desktop applications, online citation managers, … I’d like to review all of these to get some knowledge of the social features they might offer or could inspire me to create.

To start of here’s a list of the sites I’ve been looking at:

Profiles and groups

Almost all of the web based Science 2.0 platforms out there offer the user a way to create his own profile, nothing new there. The researcher is allowed to create his own profile with information like the institution he’s working at, research field, … This offers people in the network to get to know who they are interacting with, but also offers an opportunity for to link people with same interests from over the whole world.

Some of the sites offer a process to complete your profile by importing contacts, … and some even automatically recognize friends and propose them this is done by Epernicus. Important with this last feature is that your profile is as complete as possible. This all sounds great but still someone can act on behalf of someone else, some of the platforms try preventing this by only allowing people with mail addresses from schools, universities, …

An other basic social feature is joining, creating, … of groups this allows for interaction. Groups can be made public or private.

Recommendations

When uploading or looking at a document almost all sites offer recommendations for the user. Another part of recommendations is being able to recommend documents to others and to save those recommendations.

Collaborations

In offering a user ways to share documents working together on a document seems to be a natural next step. But this is a service that is harder to implement than the previous social features. Next to being more difficult there are also more ways to do this.

Documents and groups

A more classic approach taken by some sites is allowing a user to upload documents to his own map and share these with others. Others can in their turn edit, upload and share the document again. This is most of the times related with a group of users, this approach doesn’t seem to be the easiest.

Wiki’s

Most people are already familiar with wiki’s and it’s often used by groups of researchers in labs. So some of the sites just implement wiki’s into their site as a collaboration services. The benefits are that is a very well known principle and easy to implement.

Google Doc system

Some sites even go as far as implementing their own Google Doc like system, as for development this seems a very intensive process. On the other side the system of Google Doc’s is a very good one, allowing people to work on the same document.

When it comes to collaboration an approach like a Wiki seems the best offering an easy way to put a lot of information in a structured way online. Of course with the arrival of Google Wave this might all change.

Visualization

Visualizations in the sites doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention, possibly because they don’t see it as an immediately productive tool for the researches. At first hand this might be so because it’s not a thing we associate with doing research, but it might offer some interesting results. This is shown by Academia.edu and Sci Link, the last one offers a tree of science in which visually maps relationships between people.

Your own dashboards

Personalization is one of the social features offered by some of the Science 2.0 and this is likely best done by a personal dashboard. It allows the user a easy way to access specific services of the site and community. The development of own widgets is sometimes even allowed.

Blogging

Another way of offering interaction is of course offering a blog for every user, this is mainstream in all the services I’ve seen like profiles and groups.

Comments

A user is able to comment on blogs, documents, events, … this allows for interaction on all fields.

News feeds

Offering a user a quick view of what is going on in the community or research field can be done by offering a news feed. This feed can be generated by the service that looks at the profile of the user and gets information the user might be interested in. The choice of what a user might be interested in needs to be right, because a user doesn’t want to see a feed with useless information. Offering a user to integrate news feeds from other websites is also an option that is implemented by some sites.

Academia.edu seems to have focused on news feeds in it’s development, it offer feeds about events, published papers, … Building up a good profile is important in this case. But this approach gives a very personal feeling to the service. Ologeez more or less does the same thing and collects information from groups, wiki’s, … a user is interested in and shows them in a MyWorld page, which gives the user an overview of recent activities.

Another interesting feature of Academia.edu is the Twitter-like following system which allows a user to follow someone and to receive information about them in the news feeds. Yet another Twitter-like feature is implemented by SciLink, SciLink allows for you to share with your friends which paper you are reading at the moment.

Events

As mentioned above, users are interested in events. Some sites take a Last.FM like approach allowing users to look up events, join and review events. Next to events ResearchGATE allows for users to plan meetings.

Managing citations

Some sites offer users to manage their citations, users are able to share them with others, to access them online, … 2Collab takes a different approach than the previously mentioned systems, it is build around bookmarks like Delicious. It let’s people share, manage, discuss, … bookmarks they make.

Conclusion

Most of these social networks try to do more or less the same thing, putting some of their focuses differently, some might concentrate on collaboration and others on searching and sharing of documents. All offer a social network around this all, but there still seems to be little to no integration with existing services like Twitter, Facebook, … which all have a larger audience.

The social features I’d like to see added to repository software should make adding and editing papers, journals, … easier. So managing your citations is a helpful feature for anyone writing his paper.

An easy way to collaborate online would certainly increase activity from users of the repository software. It offers researchers to work together over a greater distance and a place to meet. It’s also easier to have a place to collaborate and publish at the same time. Visualizations offer some great insight to researchers about their papers, people they work with, … but the question I’m likely to ask is, will people frequently use this feature?

News feeds are offered by some of the social networks are interesting and recent developments in this area have been made. Like the lifestreaming service offered by FriendFeed which allows users to share content from different services like Flickr, Delicious, … would likely be a good social feature to share information between users. It gives the user a quick view of what is going on in the community, an easy way to share, …

Other social features like dashboard, event, comments, … are common to most social networks scientific or not. People who’d like to use a social network will most like expect them to be available. Feedback on this post (things I haven’t mentioned or skipped over to quickly) are welcome in the comments.

In my next blog post I will talk about some Science 2.0 platforms that use applications on the desktop instead of a website.

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One Response to “Overview of social features in Science 2.0 platforms”

  1. hbasset Says:

    Hi Stijn,
    I like your blog and mentioned it in mine: http://scienceintelligence.wordpress.com
    please have a look at my article about science 2.0: http://www.researchinformation.info/features/feature.php?feature_id=237

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