CASE STUDY

Collaboration Tools for Climate Scientists

Method — Ethnography

The long-term ethnographic approach used on this project developed deep insights about institutional and cultural values that participants can rarely articulate explicitly in an interview.

Included observation of collaboration activities within research teams, at scientific conferences, on software development conference calls, and in virtual spaces such as project wikis, code repositories, and data portals.

Visualized output from the Community Climate System Model (CCSM). (Photo Credit: NCAR)

Visualized output from the Community Climate System Model (CCSM). (Photo Credit: NCAR)

Research Question

Scientists who model earth and climate systems want to leverage their collective efforts. How might open-source collaboration tools be reconfigured to support code sharing in the earth sciences?

Design Insights

Because of the complexity of earth system models, sharing code is a painstaking process that requires a lot of back and forth between scientists. Calls for openness and transparency in this domain are simplistic when they do not acknowledge the significant trade-offs to making this communication public. Scientists need flexible control over what they share and when they share it. The design opportunity for the collaboration platform is to support a communication backchannel as well as a sensible trajectory toward public documentation.