4. The Overleaf Collaborative Writing Challenge

How can Overleaf support collaborative writing of academics and citizen scientists?


Overleaf was originally built by scientists to help collaborate on their research papers, but we’re now seeing its use extend out to a much more diverse group – for example, a group of 15 middle school students recently used Overleaf to create and produce their 300-page robotics project report!

Given that citizen science projects are often large collaborations, how can collaborative writing tools such as Overleaf be used by citizen scientists in both the planning and preparation phases, and also to help speed up the writing up and dissemination of the results of the experiments?

The Challenge

Help us to explore:

  • a)     Different ways in which Overleaf can be used by citizen scientists
  • b)     How Overleaf be used in conjunction with other research tools, such as Plot.ly and Mendeley.
  • c)     Whether the ‘getting started’ process is intuitive and helpful, or whether there are ways to more effectively help new users get up and running.

The overall question we’re aiming to answer is: What user interface improvements would help citizen scientists and academics collaborate more effectively on the platform?


John Hammersley, Co-founder of Overleaf
Muki Haklay, professor at UCL

OUTCOMES, as shared by Muki Haklay

(originally posted at: https://povesham.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/ecsa2016-thinkcamp-challenge-how-can-overleaf-support-collaborative-writing-between-academics-and-citizen-scientists/ )

"For this specific challenge, we defined it as ‘The Overleaf Collaborative Writing Challenge – How can Overleaf support collaborative writing between academics

and citizen scientists?‘. The focus here is on scientific papers that are coming out of a citizen science project. It is now becoming more common to include citizen scientists as co-authors in the title of the paper. However, can they have more direct involvement in the process of writing so they are more involved in the scientific process? This was the ‘research question’ (more accurately, idea) for the session.

wp-1463894715220.jpgWe had a table, and two session, each of about hour and a half. In each session, about 6 or 8 people joined me, with one person staying for both session (Artemis Skarlatidou), and other people joining for parts or the whole discussion (among them Alison Parker, Avinoam Baruch, Berk Anbaroglu, Christian Nold,  Denise Gameiro,  Jon Van Oast, Julia Aletebuchner, Libby Helpburn, Lotta Tomasson, Sultan Kocaman, and surely several other people). We had a table with a poster, which included information about the challenge.

Although we have looked briefly at the Overleaf system during the beginning of the discussion, it expanded very quickly to the core issues of collaboration between scientists and citizen scientists on writing paper together."




Margaret Gold,
May 26, 2016, 5:31 AM
Margaret Gold,
May 26, 2016, 5:31 AM
Margaret Gold,
May 26, 2016, 5:30 AM