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MPDL CoLaboratory – A community of expertise[edit]

An essential aspect of the MPDL mission should be to provide expertise to the institutes in any domain where it has gained experience. This will be implemented by means of activities launched within the MPDL CoLaboratory (MPDL CoLab) initiative.

The idea of the MPDL CoLab is to provide a platform for community building and knowledge exchange across (sub)projects and organisations. The aim is to improve the exchange of explicit knowledge and to make tacit and individual know-how explicit. The MPDL CoLab supports community-building processes and connects people with similar fields of interests and goals within the MPG as well as other external organisations.

MPDL CoLab will provide information about existing standards and best practices in the domain of supporting scientific life-cyles in order to ensure long-term compatibility between local and centralized initiatives within the MPG.

Aims for the MPDL CoLab[edit]

The MPDL CoLab should provide an organisational, technological and social framework for a self-organising community of practice in the domain of eScience. It will support the individual members with a community background, where ideas can be discussed and reflected, knowledge can be shared, know-how can be transferred in face-to-face meetings and relationships for fostering the professional identity can be identified. In order to select the form, structure and system that will be most effective to support a knowledge community, we need a structure which is adequate to fulfil the needs of the community and to address the knowledge we have to share. The challenge is to provide mechanisms for sharing both tacit and explicit knowledge.

To read more about our motivation, see the concept paper for MPDL CoLaboratory

1. Share explicit knowledge

  • Improve visibility of documented knowledge, such as data models, Metadata schemas, concepts, usage scenarios, use cases, architectural blue prints, etc.
  • Improve documented explicit knowledge (i.e. clean-up text documents)
  • Improve linkage of documented knowledge with ongoing discussions, annotations, comments
  • Improve linkage of documented knowledge with other projects in the domain

2. Make tacit know-how explicit

For individuals, tacit knowledge means intuition, individual judgement, common sense, i.e. the ability to do something without being able to explain it. For communities, tacit knowledge develops over time in distinct practices and relationships that evolve from cooperative work. Thus, tacit knowledge can best be externalized and shared by interacting with others.

3. From individual knowledge representations to shared knowledge trees

Individuals have their own assumptions and ideas on solutions, artefacts, services, technologies. Some of them are shared in informal person-to-person meetings or domain expert meetings. The aim of the CoLab should be to provide space and time for discussions on basic and fundamental concepts, to be able to externalize individual ideas and assumptions, to be able to formulate personal assumptions within a brainstorming to come to commonly agreed “knowledge trees”, which can further be developed and re-defined.

4. Connect interested people

The possibility to easily get in contact with other members of interest as well as the possibility to identify one’s most interesting contacts might serve as first incentive for individual engagement and participation within the MPDL CoLab. Connecting members from different organizational units and projects (e.g. software development, system design, functional specifications, user support, libraries, public relations etc.) can support cross-functional knowledge exchange, which opens up the mind for new, innovative solutions.

5. Cultivate a group identity

By sharing similar goals and interests, by employing common practices, working with the same tools and using a common terminology, the community members gradually develop a common value system and thus a certain group identity. Group identities can serve as reflector for fostering one’s individual professional identity within the domain. Positioning oneself within a community, being perceived as member with an individual professional opinion and expertise supports the sense of individual empowerment and accomplishing.

6. Cultivate cooperative “making sense of a field”

In any professional domain exist “black holes”, unknown fields, which are just on the edge of being systematically perceived and analysed. Apart from individual approaches to tackle new and unknown domains, a cooperative approach of a community to perceive unknown domains fosters the learning process of the individual. By exchanging ideas, mind settings and assumptions on unknown areas, the community gets a facetted picture of the unknown domain, and each individual has a learning effect by reflecting on his own idea. Thus, the community serves as reflector for shaping ideas and as backend for controversial and open discussions.