Networks of Collaboration

Availability: Optional for OII MSc and DPhil students.

Schedule: Hilary Term (Weeks 1-8). Tuesdays 09:00-11:00.

Location: Meeting Room, Oxford Internet Institute, 1 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3JS.

Reading list: Networks of Collaboration



This course will examine how collaboration and research are being transformed by the internet and World Wide Web. It will begin with an overview of research to date about practices of working together and sharing knowledge online. Next, it will examine several of key issues in this area in depth: what are the advantages and disadvantages of working together in distributed mode? How are organizations and different cultures of expertise affected by collaboration across physical and institutional boundaries? How are scholars digitizing resources, and with what consequences for the inputs and outputs of the research process? What are the implications of changing models of collecting, sharing and accessing digital resources in different settings?

To address these questions, the course will draw on a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including the sociology of science and technology, computer-supported collaborative work, science communication, the economics of innovation, and information science. It will cover research in various organizations, as well as a variety of practices including the digitization of images and the organization of databases. It will also cover how innovations emerge in networks and policy issues including open access. Further, the course will examine policy questions arising in this domain: How are online resources being used in education? What are the implications of online knowledge for the public understanding of science?

Course Objectives

The course will give students an in-depth understanding about how research and collaboration are changing as they migrate online. It will provide an overview of current findings and major topics in this field. The aim is to equip students with the analytical tools and evidence to assess the policy, practice and implications of Internet- and web-based research and collaboration in distributed groups. They will also have a toolkit for understanding this topic from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Finally, they will be able to take the lessons learned in a variety of settings and apply them to other work and research contexts, as well as being able to design research projects that address the issues covered.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, students will:

  • Be able to identify the benefits and drawbacks of distributed collaboration, and the challenges of knowledge in online forms

  • Have a thorough grasp of the social implications of changing internet- and web-based research practices

  • Be familiar with the various approaches to the analysis of online research and collaboration, including scientometrics, computerization movements, and network analysis

  • Be able to design research on topics related to the course, and to apply course findings to practical organizational problems and problems of research policy

Teaching Arrangements

The course will consist of eight two-hour weekly sessions, each being divided into an hour's lecture with the remainder discussion and presentations of a joint student project.

Students will be engaged in a collaborative research project over the course of the sessions, which will be presented on a weekly basis (this will not be formally assessed, but involve ongoing presentations on a question set at the beginning of the course).

Schedule for Networks of Collaboration



Week 1

Distributed Collaboration

Week 2

Science Communication

Week 3

Week 3- Data, Big Data, and Research Transformations

Week 4

Organizations, Collaboration and Changing Practices

Week 5

Networks of Innovation

Week 6

Open Access

Week 7

Tracking and Mapping Science and Knowledge

Week 8

Research Policy and the Public Understanding of Science


Students will be assessed through a final essay that is no longer than 5000 words which must be submitted to the Examinations School by 12 noon of Monday of Week 1 of Trinity term. The essay will cover one of the course topics, and students will choose a topic in consultation with the course tutors in advance. The essay should be clearly related to the topics of the course. Each student will also be required to give one ten minute presentation on a specific aspect of the session topic or to review the argument of one of the books under the additional readings for each session topic. Details of these presentations will be agreed in Week 1. Students will also be required to write one short (advised length: 1500-3000 words) essay on any of the 8 topics covered. This essay will provide a means for students to obtain feedback on the progress they have achieved.