Socio-technical dimensions of distributed work

Working with Dr. Geoffrey Bowker at the University of Pittsburgh, Professor of Information Paul Edwards studied how effective interdisciplinary research collaborations emerge in modern science.

Increasingly, solutions to scientific and engineering problems require multidisciplinary distributed teams, but little is known about their emergence, coalescence, structural form, and success. This research developed and tested the value of a typology of such teams.

Start date: 9/1/2009
End date: 8/31/2013

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This project contributed to research on collaboration, institutions, the role of infrastructure, and the science of science. The study identified new forms of emerging scientific and engineering collaborations, how to identify and catalyze them early on, and how to best support and nurture them. The development of a typology of multidisciplinary distributed teams was the first such typology to be built and could have significant impact on the understanding of cyberinfrastructure formation. The methodology for this research was primarily qualitative, which included interviews with team members after they had been located and placed within the newly-created typology.

Investigating the emergence of new collaborations, new collaborative forms, and new types of scientific work enabled by changes in cyberinfrastructure is a crucial step in learning how to identify, catalyze, and support teams that will be central to future advances in science and engineering. The results from this research will be helpful to funding agencies and other research institutions for use in future projects. In addition, cyberinfrastructure can enhance the participation of under-represented groups and minority institutions in scientific and engineering collaborations.


VOSS: Collaborative Research: Team Science: Sociotechnical Dimensions of Distributed Work, National Science Foundation: $50,588


The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…"