Developing our scientific workflow- collaborative writing

As we begin our journey into the open world, we must first answer a simple, yet imperative question. How do you decided on the tools or software to use when writing as a group, where each person will contribute independently throughout the various stages of the writing process? In this environment, it’s crucial that each member of the team has access to the shared document, can edit and track their changes, and visualize the changes made by other contributors. Obviously, it’s important that the collaborative writing software creates a productive environment that optimizes efficiency of the workflow.

Our goal in this class is to progress through the scientific workflow to eventually develop a scientific manuscript. The workflow consists of designing an experiment, collecting and analyzing data, and then publishing the results. We will each be working on different aspects of our grander project. Therefore, it is necessary to generate an idea and a plan for collaborative writing before deciding on the collaborative writing platform.

After a bit of brainstorming and digging around, it’s quite obvious that the Internet does not lack resources for organized collaborative writing. Many of these different types of resources are tailored to the goals of the user. If the end goal is to publish a scientific article, there’s software for that. If the goal is to develop a maintainable blog, there’s software for that. If the goal is to simply stay organized in the workplace…you get the picture.

We narrowed our list of writing platforms to 5 possibilities, and used a pro/con system to rank them. Each platform offers something slightly different than the other platforms. For example, collaborative writing on a platform such as Google docs allows for an increased level of familiarity of each individual to the writing platform. On the other hand, collaborative writing using more sophisticated systems such as Authorea or Overleaf might be more appropriate for meeting user needs because of their applications like built in citation managers, and templates for academic journals (very useful for us).

IMG_3886Eventually, we decided on Overleaf as our platform for collaborative writing. We will use this for all steps of the writing process, including our eventual manuscript. Our primary reasons for selecting this platform is that it is free(!), it provides a manuscript template for our desired journal, and it creates an environment where it is very easy to share information and track changes. Importantly, this all happens in real time.


Time to get started.


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