Uniting to facilitate brain research

Staff at the Brain Institute, a coordinating center for neuroscience research and education at the University of Utah, wanted to improve collaboration among neuroscientists, engineers, physicians and community partners. The Institute takes a multidisciplinary approach to research, believing that problems found in brain pathologies can be solved across multiple fields of study, not just in one area like biochemistry or psychology. To facilitate that multidisciplinary collaboration, administrators at the Brain Institute sought the tools and infrastructure for members to communicate effectively despite their various locations and disciplines.

Dr. Amy J. Davis, associate director at the Institute, says, "It was a daunting task to think about making collaboration happen. The Brain Institute wanted to build an infrastructure that would support real collaboration."

The Institute also wanted a system in which researchers could communicate on their own time from their own locations but still have a private, secure workspace, with intellectual property protected behind University of Utah firewalls.

After considering various options, the team chose a solution that involves Open Text Collaboration and Vignette (now part of Open Text) Edition. With funding secured for a pilot project, the team went live on a production server with the Open Text collaboration installation dubbed "Unite." The solution helps with grant preparation and administration, and also with building private collaborative workspaces online where colleagues can work together regardless of location or time. Other activities, such as sharing team information and achievements--as well as coordinating meetings, symposia and outreach events--can also be managed through the Unite solution.

The grant-writing community is the main user of Unite to date. The University has a large number of groups using the solution to develop grant proposals for federal funding for research. After the grants have been awarded, administrators use Unite workspace to organize the projects and post-grant administration.

Davis says, "There’s never a question of who has the live document. With Unite, the grant writing process is more efficient and clear. There’s no ambiguity about where the documents are and in what state they are."

According to Open Text, the benefits of the project are:

  • Private and public workspaces allow multidisciplinary teams to work together, regardless of location.
  • Teams benefit from tailored workspaces that offer threaded discussions, blogs, wikis and cross-workspace dashboards.
  • Document versioning and approval tools enhance user efficiency and productivity.
  • Data and intellectual property are secure.
  • Powerful full-text indexing and search mechanisms are available.

The Brain Institute has 140 faculty members from 35 academic departments across four Utah universities.

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