Collaborative projects, such as e-Science projects producing software and tools to support the work of scientists, involve the management and coordination of work of a wide range of personnel, and also involve these personnel working together on joint activities. Effective communication practices are essential for the success of e-Science projects, for a number of reasons and in a number of different senses. For instance, there will be many one-way transfers of information, such as project management informing new personnel of the project’s vision and goals, the communication of work plans (including individuals’ roles, the model of software development employed by the project, timescales and deadlines) from those who have created them to those expected to execute them, and the presentation of work by an individual or team to their colleagues. Such transfers of information may in turn give rise to further communication. This transfer of information can give rise to further communication, including the giving of feedback, for instance whether a software developer feels that the tasks they have been assigned are realistically achievable, and requests for clarification. Communication may also take the form of negotiations or discussions. These could be regarding either day-to-day issues, for instance a team prioritising the tasks they need to complete and dividing work amongst team members, or higher-level issues such as seeking to define the project's overall vision, or constructing an overall plan of work.
The large-scale, multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional, geographically-distributed, and sometimes international nature of e-Science projects, however, frequently impedes the establishment of effective communication practices. One major reason is that their distributed nature necessitates the frequent use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs, such as e-mail, telephone, and Instant Messaging). It has often been reported that ICTs often do not afford the same richness of communication as face-to-face communication (de Rooij et al. 2007), or can be beset by technological difficulties (Olson & Olson 2000). Because the impact of ICTs upon effective communication practices has thus been widely considered in the existing literature, this paper will instead consider the impact of a variety of other issues which impede communication flows.
Through qualitative case studies of e-Science projects, this paper aims to highlight some issues arising in these e-Science projects that may impede successful communication flows amongst project partners, and to provide recommendations for addressing these issues. These recommendations will often be based upon methods employed in the case studies when they have proved successful. It is hoped that they will prove very useful to Principal Investigators and Project Managers of existing and future e-Science projects in establishing communication practices that contribute to the success of their projects.
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