IT Innovation Contest

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Research Collaboration Social Networking Pilot

Proposal Status: 

Many promising efforts to discover cures for disease involve collaborations span departmental, organizational, and disciplinary boundaries. These collaborations typically bring together researchers and assets from across academic research institutions, private institutes, industry partners, and medical centers. In the current economic climate, this increased focus on “partnering” is recognized as a winning business strategy for many companies and universities.


We propose a comprehensive pilot of the Yammer social networking platform by the UCSF Memory and Aging Center (MAC), including use of the platform within four established collaborative research efforts that are “shovel-ready” for more sophisticated networking technology. We believe our collaborative efforts will be markedly accelerated by using these cutting-edge information networking tools to create a new virtual research environment in which the streamlined sharing of collective expertise can generate critical individual insights.


Realizing this vision will require a brief, sustained effort by key technologists and engaged researchers to 1) rapidly apply the social networking platform functionality to real world research; 2) identify and document the implementation strategies that work; and 3) evaluate the impact of the pilot on participants’ collaborative behavior and attitudes.


Our conversations with researchers and social enterprise leaders have highlighted key areas of collaborative activity that we will evaluate in the pilot.

  • Secure document sharing
  • Hypothesis generation and research-related discussions
  • Collaborative editing of manuscripts and other shared intellectual products
  • Administrative organization of grant applications and progress reports
  • Management of both virtual and in-person meetings (agendas, presentations, notes)
  • Information curation and establishment of knowledge bases (e.g. wiki/topic pages)


Collaborative Research Social Networks for the Pilot

  1. UCSF Memory and Aging Center, a division within the Department of Neurology where 100+ faculty and staff engage in neurodegenerative disease research, clinical care and education.
  2. Tau Consortium (TAU), a philanthropically funded translational collaboration studying the tau protein in the context of neurodegenerative disease with 50+ investigators across 13 institutions.
  3. Consortium for Frontotemporal Dementia Research (CFR), a philanthropically funded translational collaboration across 8 institutions in which researchers study frontotemporal dementia (FTD) with the goal of developing a cure/treatment for progranulin variants of FTD.
  4. Frontotemporal Dementia Program Project Grant (FTD PPG), an NIH-funded program project grant at UCSF and 4 other institutions investigating FTD.
  5. PCA Consensus Criteria, an international effort with 40+ participants working to develop consensus research criteria for the posterior cortical atrophy variant of Alzheimer’s.


  1. Performance Metrics: Detailed documentation of adoption and usage metrics for each function of the social networking platform during the pilot period.
  2. Implementation Guidelines: Detailed description of implementation strategies, organizational principles, and lessons learned/best practices from the pilot.
  3. Evaluation and Outcomes: Report of quantitative and qualitative changes to participants’ behavior and attitudes as a result of the pilot, including recommendations for ensuring maximal participation in future programs, based on pre- and post- questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews.


Impact on UCSF's mission and/or community

UCSF is a leader in establishing cross-sector collaborations and has a reputation for its highly collaborative research environment. Thus, UCSF is ideally positioned to spearhead the innovative use of social networking tools to enhance research activity. The results of this pilot will directly support the wider research community by developing evidence-based strategies for intellectual networking that can be adopted throughout the university and beyond.


Team Members, Roles, and Estimated Effort

Joe Hesse – Technical Director (20% effort during pilot period)

Caroline Latham – Social Network Curator and Advocate (40% effort during pilot period)

Katherine Rankin, PhD – Psychological Evaluation/Outcomes (20% effort during pilot period)


All team members’ effort is approved for the pilot effort during working hours. Additional effort outside of working hours will be applied to the effort as appropriate/needed.


It might be worth considering if SalesForce along with its Chatter service, adopted by UCSF for campus wide use, fully integrated with MyAccess, can address the areas of collaborative activity identified in the proposal. At the least this would highlight the additional value (or lack thereof) of using Yammer instead of Salesforce.

Agree with Vivek. I'm not familiar with the differences between Salesforce+Chatter and Yammer, but on casual reading of Yammer's features, it appears that Salesforce+Chatter would accomplish the goals, and would utilize an existing UCSF framework. If there are unique features of Yammer that are critical to the success of the project, it would be useful to see those delineated.

Nina Jameson and I, who are responsible for the Salesforce program at UCSF, been in discussions with Joe over the use of Chatter. There are a few things they are looking for that Salesforce cannot do yet. The first is "Collaborative editing of manuscripts and other shared intellectual products". The second is "Information curation and establishment of knowledge bases (e.g. wiki/topic pages)". There's also another item not listed in the proposal, and that's the management of the networks. is working on these items, but there's no explicit timeline. Joe is aware of the risk -- that the tool he's picking for the pilot may not necessarily be the tool recommended as the enterprise collaboration tool. I think there's value in the pilot Joe and team are proposing, specifically in their outlined deliverables, and we can all benefit from what they learn piloting their research collaboration social network.

In this light, then yes, seems like a very worthwhile pilot, and if Salesforce adds the features, would probably translate well to that environment as well. I am extremely interested in their deliverables, especially "Detailed documentation of adoption and usage metrics for each function of the social networking platform during the pilot period." It would be very educational to learn what tools and features are actively used in this context.

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