Economic, organizational, and societal pressures, as well as the desire to reach shared goals more efficiently and effectively, are driving an increase in collaborative research. Research collaborations frequently occur among participants separated by temporal, geographical, organizational, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries. Increasingly complex collaborative projects focus attention on the question of how to facilitate working together. Through so-called collaboratories, information technology can play an important role in addressing this question. A collaboratory can be defined as an information technology infrastructure that supports cooperation among individuals, groups, or organizations in pursuit of a shared goal by facilitating interaction, communication, and knowledge-sharing. Tools such as Web-based collaborative workspaces, Internet discussion lists/newsgroups/real-time chat, screen- and application-sharing, Web-based conferencing, online Web page mark-up, automatic notification, and videoconferencing can be used to implement collaboratories. Collaboratories have significant potential to facilitate cooperative research, but should be evaluated carefully to determine best practices.
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