Finding Collaborators: Toward Interactive Discovery Tools for Research Network Systems
Background: Research networking systems hold great promise for helping biomedical scientists identify collaborators with the expertise needed to build interdisciplinary teams. Although efforts to date have focused primarily on collecting and aggregating information, less attention has been paid to the design of end-user tools for using these collections to identify collaborators. To be effective, collaborator search tools must provide researchers with easy access to information relevant to their collaboration needs.
Objective: The aim was to study user requirements and preferences for research networking system collaborator search tools and to design and evaluate a functional prototype.
Results: Initial interviews identified consensus regarding several novel requirements for collaborator search tools, including chronological display of publication and research funding information, the need for conjunctive keyword searches, and tools for tracking candidate collaborators. Participant responses were positive (SUS score: mean 76.4%, SD 13.9). Opportunities for improving the interface design were identified.
Conclusions: Interactive, timeline-based displays that support comparison of researcher productivity in funding and publication have the potential to effectively support searching for collaborators. Further refinement and longitudinal studies may be needed to better understand the implications of collaborator search tools for researcher workflows.