Sunday, 17 August 2008

The International Gang of Four (IGF)

Source: Norma Desmond's Flickr Photostream

Here's a wee story I'd like to share in real time.

In order to respect privacy, I've changed the names and omitted the nature of disease topic. In the grander scheme of things, what we're doing is equally applicable to any condition anyway.


My involvement in Patient Advocacy leads to a vast array of interesting avenues. On one of the Forum's that McDawg frequents, off Forum, I've made contact with a few folks in particular who post extremely interesting and thought provoking comments and are clearly, very intelligent people. The majority of these comments are accompanied with links to abstracts in PubMed.

Now, I'm not suggesting at all that the content of posts from others are not of value. Far from it. Everyone has something to offer. Having navigated these waters for a number of years now, users of the Forum would be the first to agree however that some people do very much stand out from the crowd. I'm not one of them but my "connecting people" skills is appreciated there.

Last year in particular, the first person unbeknown to anyone at that time to be "recruited" to the IGF was "Margaret" in Australia and then "Laura" in New Zealand a few weeks later. Broadly speaking, we've all gathered a lot of useful information and share much common ground. Our backgrounds are all quite different but we all very much have a reason for being interested in a particular disease.

This year, off Forum, contact was established with "Thomas" in Canada. We all started off emailing each other separately and this gradually started to morph into something bigger - more collective.

Thomas proposed that it would be a good idea or formally structure what we were doing, and also proposed the name of the International Gang of Four and since all were in agreement, that's how we formed the IGF.

This also ties in very nicely with a Review Manuscript I was already working on about the disease.

"Julie" from the USA has been the most recent addition a month or so ago. Now that we are up to five, we're still trading at the IGF but the "F" now represents five, not four.


Rather than all working separately, I proposed that we should collaborate online using Google Docs. Some of us are more advanced than others in using it, but we're making progress as a team.

We all still contribute to the Forum but in a way, as a group, we sort of outgrew it. Part of "the problem" is that off Forum, we share many Manuscripts using "Fair Use", so are unable to continue with our detailed discussions in a public Forum.

What we are currently doing is uploading our own documents and presentations to Google Docs. At any given moment of time, any member of the IGF can access these, share, remix, whatever. We have a house rule that such access at the moment does not extend to those outwith the group.

This is somewhat ironic for an Open Access Advocate and indeed, someone interested in the concept of Open Notebook Science (ONS) and so on. Indeed, it was contributing to this thread on FriendFeed about writing a Manuscript on ONS and 2.0 social networking science stuff that prompted me to write this post.

So, should the IGF continue to collaborate in the way that we currently are or perhaps experiment with a wiki for example? I would say that we stick with doing what we are currently doing and think about this again at some point in the future.

Once we get to a point where we've actually produced something tangible, where do we go from there? Submit to a Journal for peer review? Most probably.

This is all very much a learning curve for McDawg at least in terms of scientific collaborations but not music collaborations. I've only done this once before (last year) with the end result getting published in Nature Precedings:-

Nature Precedings is a free online service launched in 2007 enabling researchers in the life sciences to rapidly share, discuss and cite preliminary (unpublished) findings. One year later, we look at some of the highlights.

Being a non scientist, a number of questions arise. How do scientists collaborate online? Do many actually do this? Should non scientists venture into such territories? What types of 2.0 tools do people/scientists use to collaborate online?

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