Walking the Tightrope: The Balancing Acts of a Large e-Research Project
Although e-Research has received much attention and acclaim in recent years, the realities of distributed collaboration still challenge even the most well-planned endeavors. This case study of an e-Research project examines the ‚balancing acts’ associated with multidisciplinary, geographically distributed, large-scale research and development work. After briefly describing the history and organizational design of this information technology and atmospheric science research project, I identify five paradoxical challenges that cannot be resolved: research versus development, harmony versus conflict, consensus versus top-down decision making, frequency and modes of communication, and fast versus slow pacing. Although collaboration and communication technologies supported the project’s management and organization, most of the complexities faced by the team were not technological in nature. From the five paradoxical challenges associated with the project, I distill three cross-cutting issues that could be relevant to other e-Research projects of this magnitude: satisfying the multiple needs of a multidisciplinary project, managing information, and engaging all participants. I identify the practical implications of these challenges and issues, specifically that organizational and low-tech solutions – not the introduction of more sophisticated technology tools – are needed to solve these challenges and to better streamline coordination.