NB: This Pilot proposal deals with several completely new ideas and related terminology. To obtain explanations of these new ideas and terminology, please use the inserted Links to jump to WebSites, for descriptive information, and examples.
OVERVIEW: Creation of useful knowledge from scientific investigations requires the collaboration of scientists usually separated by space, or both space and time. Communications between scientists under these conditions could be enhanced by the use of the Web. Unfortunately, the minimum time required for an individual scientist to learn and utilize presently-available Web-tools is so great that communication-enhancement cannot take precedence over the other necessities for success in research: doing the work, publishing the results, and obtaining new grant monies. Furthermore, the societal institutions of paper-based communications are hindering a paradigm-shift in scientific communication (e.g. the OpenAccess debates). The project described below concentrates on reducing the minimum-time needed by an individual scientist to create a WebSite that provides a review of the scientist's research area in a way that combines both generality with specificity, thus accommodating readers with a range of different backgrounds and interests. The project also provides an automated method of creating new inter-WebSite links that readers can use to more easily traverse the Web-based network that will be the basis of knowledge-creation and knowledge-storage in the coming era. The active-archives created with this project's Web-tools will, unlike current passive-archives, gain value over time. The project is designed so that all participants (Moderator-Scientists, Experts, Readers, and Archivists) act in their own self-interest when collaborating, thus providing independent motivation for use of the project-tools, which is a necessity for wide adoption of these enhancements to scientific communications. ALSO, as aid to comparing the proposal with present methods, there is a "Summary Table Overview" available in the Attachments portion at the end of the narrative portion. It is best to look at this Table NOW, when first reading this proposal.
RATIONALE: Under a grant from the National Library of Medicine, we have developed new Web-based OpenSource Software that will increase the speed of knowledge creation (CreateKnowledge-Link) out of research information from translational and inter-disciplinary projects. The Pilot project proposed herein will test how well this software is accepted by a group of intended users at CTSI, and provide a path to making the software available to all other CTSI sites across the country.
PLAN: Within the UCSF CTSI, this project will beta-test two software programs (described below): 1) Creating WebCompendia WebSites, and 2) Using the ForwardLink-Protocol. Volunteer users will be recruited from within CTSI, from PostDocs and K scholars, by means of email, WebSites (including CTSI's WebSite and CTSI Blogs), lectures about the benefits of using the programs, and personal contact with CTSI mentors and research advisors. The two software programs will be available on CTSI servers, and, at present, be limited to beta-test volunteers. Volunteers who participate will be asked to inform us of any difficulties in using the programs and also be invited to suggest improvements or additional functionality that they could imagine would be useful. All comments can be either signed or anonymous. Under this Pilot Project, the OpenSource Software will be user-debugged and new functionalities may be added by the programmers who have worked on this project.
The volunteers and their mentors will also be requested to fill out an anonymous questionnaire about the factors that led them to volunteer. This information will help identify the most-effective communication means of informing scientists and academic clinicians about the capabilities and personal benefits of the new system. If the pilot study is successful, and since the the methodology is clearly scalable to any number of servers, the OpenSource Programs would then be made available to all other CTSIs across the country, using these "most-effective means" to inform users at the other CTSIs about the benefits.
The WebCompendia WebSite program will be used to create concise, yet comprehensive, OpenAccess, CreativeCommons WebSites that are basically stylized, highly-moderated blogs where, unlike a Wiki, no material can be posted without the explicit approval of the (scientist) Moderator. Each WebCompendium will center on a topic of interest to the Moderator, and will, by the means of its structure (ExpandingOutline-Link), organize, out of the multi-dimensional research information that is accumulating, a narrow slice of information, together with an objective evaluation of the knowledge that can be derived from that slice of information (CreateKnowledge-Link). WebCompendia will make it easy to address research questions using Strong-Inference, a method that "sharpens the cutting-edge" of scientific enquiry (ExpandingOutline-Link). Each WebCompendium will be peer-reviewed by experts in the field, and each will automatically create an online-community of like-minded scholars interested in the same slice-of-available-knowledge, out of which new collaborations and/or jobs could arise (SelfInterest-Link).
These WebCompendia (which will initially be found by Google or Yahoo searches) will also be inter-linked by means of the ForwardLink-Protocol, which codifies new non-semantic Web linkages (which are unlike Google or Yahoo searches). The links will be automatically created by use of the WebCompendia program (ForwardLink-Link). These Links will, to scholars, be much more informative and much easier to evaluate than present Web-links and Web-searches (see Sortable Table section in ForwardLink-Link), thus increasing the usage of WebCompendia for communication of scientific ideas and information.
The programs to create WebCompendia and their inter-linkages will use online pop-up instructions and easy-to-intuit clicks for ease-of-use without training. Each user of these programs (whether as Moderator, Contributor-Expert, or Reader) will be motivated to participate based on their own self-interest (SelfInterest-Link), without need for external inducements. We expect the use of WebCompendia to expand initially based on the needs and interests of students: 1) PostDocs, 2) Senior Residents in medical or surgical training, 3) PreDocs starting thesis work (SelfInterest-Link).
The two programs are contained within a free OpenSource Content-Management System called TikiWiki CMS Groupware (Wikipedia; TikiWiki), which is maintained and updated by a team of volunteers, after functional OpenSource programs are made available to the team (as will occur after a successful beta-test). The TikiWiki CMS provides a means of tailoring the System to the specific requirements of WebCompendia.
CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS: 1) As reported by the volunteers, the debugged programs are functional and usable without training; 2) From the anonymous questionnaires and feedback from seminar attendees, effective means are identified that can be used to inform and motivate scientists and academic clinicians to consider using the WebCompendia and ForwardLink programs that are made available on their local CTSI servers across the country. 3) Problems of installation of the TikiWiki CMS Groupware, WebCompendia, and ForwardLink-Protocol programs at other CTSIs are identified during the installation on CTSI servers, and predicted by CTSI IT personnel. 4) A practical program is developed for promoting the usage of these programs at other CTSI sites, based on knowledge of previous interactions among CTSIs at the national level, and the information from volunteers on the best communication-means.
COSTS & JUSTIFICATION: Costs are requested for the two programmers that have created the Software. They will correct errors and add new functionality that is described by the volunteers. These programmers are in Indiana and Texas, and are experienced in adapting TikiWiki to new uses. The PHP programmer earns $50/hr, and the Tiki WebSite designer earns $35/hr. Budget = $40,000 for 12 months; the costs for each will depend on the debugging and types of additions suggested by the volunteers. The PI will not charge any salary to this grant. For travel for the PI to East Coast CTSI, during promotion of the programs, Budget = $6,000. For use of a WebLink facility to give seminars at other CTSIs during promotion, Budget = $4,000. Total Budget = $50,000.
COLLABORATORS: As part of this Pilot project, assistance is sought from several CTSI programs and experts. We propose collaborations with the following: 1) IT personnel on ease or difficulty in setting up the software on the CTSI server. 2) Faculty and mentors within CTSI with regard to the usefulness of the programs to the volunteers. 3) Planning of the promotional campaign necessary to effectively spread the use of these programs both within and outside CTSIs. 4) Critiques of the questionnaires to be filled in by the volunteers. 5) Statistics of program usages on the CTSI server. 6) Advice on how best to approach other CTSI programs for them to try out the program locally, with special reference to overcoming faculty and/or IT inertia at these other sites. 7) Collaboration with John Daigre's efforts to use established social media for scientific communications and collaborations.
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