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Title: Intensely distributed nanoscience : co-ordinating scientific work in a large multi-sited cross-disciplinary nanomedical project
Author: Roubert, Francois
ISNI:       0000 0004 7658 4479
Awarding Body: Brunel University London
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis is concerned with the study of biomedical scientific research work that is intensely distributed, i.e. socially distributed across multiple institutions, sites, and disciplines. Specifically, this PhD probes the ways in which scientists co-operating on multi-sited crossdisciplinary projects, design, use and maintain information-based resources to conduct and coordinate their experimental activities. The research focuses on the roles of information artefacts, i.e. the tools, media and devices used to store, track, display, and retrieve information in paper or electronic format, in helping the scientists integrate their activities to achieve concerted action. To examine how scientists in globally distributed settings organise and co-ordinate their scientific work using information artefacts, a multi-method multi-sited study informed by different ethnographic perspectives was conducted focused on a large European crossdisciplinary translational research project in nanodiagnostics. Situated interviews with project scientists, participant observations and participatory learning exercises were designed and deployed. From the data analysis, several abstractions were developed to represent how the joined utilisations of key information artefacts support the co-ordination of experimental activities. Subsequently, a framework was developed to highlight key interactional strategies that need to be managed by experimenters when using artefacts to organise their work cooperatively. This framework was then used as a guiding device to identify innovative ways to design future digital interactive systems to support the co-ordination of intensely distributed scientific work. From this study, several key findings came to light. We identify the role of the experimental protocol acts as a co-ordinative map that is co-designed dynamically to disseminate various instantiations of experimental executions across sites. We have also shed light on the ways the protocol, the lab book and the material log are used jointly to support the articulation of scientific work. The protocol and the lab book are used both locally and across co-operating sites to support four repeatability and reproducibility levels that are key to experimental validation. The use of the local protocol / lab book dyads at each site is further integrated with that of a centralised material log artefact to enable a system of exchange of scientific content (e.g. experimental processes, intermediate results and observations) and experimental materials (both physical materials and key information). We have found that this integration into a co-ordinative cluster supports awareness and the articulation of experimental activities both locally and across remote labs. From this understanding, we have derived several sensitising tensions to frame the strategies that scientific practitioners need to manage when designing their multi-sited experimental work and technologists should consider when designing systems to support them: (1) formalisation / flexibility; (2) articulability / local appropriateness; (3) scrutiny / tinkering; (4) accountability / applicability; (5) traceability / improvisation and (6) lastingness / immediacy. Lastly, based on these tensions, we have suggested a number of implications for the design of interactive information artefacts that can help manage both local and multi-sited co-ordination in intensely distributed scientific projects.
Supervisor: Perry, M. ; Counsell, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) ; Science and Technologies Studies (sts) ; Coordinative information artefacts ; Multi-method approach inspired by ethnography ; Experimental protocols