Why Collaboration in Research Matters: An Interview with Mark Hahnel, Founder of figshare

Mark Hahnel, founder of figshare, discusses Collections, a new tool for researchers, and shares his thoughts on collaboration in research

We interviewed Mark Hahnel, founder of figshare to discuss Collections, a new, free resource developed by the figshare team, and how researchers can use this tool to further their collaborative efforts.

1. What inspired you to start figshare?

Figshare was a solution to a problem I was having as an academic. I wanted to get credit for all of the videos and datasets I slaved away at, which then were never published and fell victim to the file drawer effect. I started making my own digital research outputs available, in a citable and sharable manner. From this, others started doing the same, and we now have over 3 million public digital research outputs on figshare.

2. What do you enjoy most about working with researchers, publishers, and institutions?

The most exciting thing about working in this space is the amount of research that is being done at the bleeding edge, combined with the speed at which the space is changing. From 3D printable dinosaur fossils to new ways of creating and analysing research, there is always something new and intriguing on the horizon.

3. Tell me about Collections, the new tool that figshare began offering in March 2016.

Collections is a way in which people can curate collections of digital research outputs. Much like academic papers wrap up the images and graphs of a particular theme, collections allows you to do this with any public digital research output - whether the collector is the author or not. Collections acts as a way of grouping together information to tell a story or back up a theory.

4. How do you envision the use of Collections impacting research?

We have come to learn that the way in which we envision features will be used is really only scratching the surface. What started as a nice way of grouping certain types of content for our publisher clients soon became a way to report on all research outputs of a funded grant to the funder, or a collection of posters around a theme. There is no reason why a collection couldn’t include a paper, as the context of the research. In this sense, it becomes a state of the art publishing platform - without peer review of course.

5. What do you think is needed in the academic environment to enable researchers to collaborate effectively?

Collaboration has a few core components that are often overlooked in pushing academics down this route. There needs to be a win-win situation for both parties. The administrative burden needs to be low, ideally just a part of the academic’s workflow and the benefits needs to be quantifiable. This is what we’re focussing on at figshare. Lots of people are using the platform to privately collaborate on research. Because they are just one way away from making it public upon completion, we believe we can encourage academics to make the most of more of their research.

To view AJE’s figshare collection, see our profile here. To start your own collection, sign up on figshare.

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