I had a chat (thanks Skype!) with Peter Higgs at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation at Queensland University of Technology about their use of Confluence for academic research and collaboration. It wasn’t too hard to track Peter down as he’s related to one of the developers here, Jeremy. Small world, too, because in a past life both Peter (in Brisbane) and I (in San Francisco) worked in different companies within the digital rights management and digital media industries. As it turns out, we even have a friend in common.

What’s the nature of the research you’re doing?
We’re developing methodologies for better measuring the creative industries: who’s employed, what firms are involved in the creative industries and economy, for example digital film, the transition of traditional industries to the online environment. Better measurement is critical for policy development and government support programs. It’s very hard to get the government to put innovative policies together if they can’t be justified with measurements of what the contribution of an industry is, how it’s changing and what impact policy changes would have.
Why use a wiki?
I needed the site to be much more organic than is possible with a traditional website. I am a project manager, not an HTML coder. I also need to encourage the participation of other researchers in the field. There is no way I wanted that engagement to be purely by email as email doesn’t create communities of interest. Confluence gives us the capacity to engage the wider community around research. We definitely needed that collaborative layer. As a consequence in addition to the Space for the National Mapping Project we now have have around a dozen other projects with spaces on our confluence server. We’re up to about 160 or 180 registered users. I’m rather happy with that!
To get researchers to use the wiki, is it just a matter of telling them it’s available?
To a point. Most of them aren’t technical, so they may have vague feelings of dissatisfaction or even fear with a large project website. So when they see what we are able to do with Confluence, how fast we can respond and the level of control over permissions they go, “YES! I want.”
It would be great to be able to share experiences and requirements with other Uni research users of Confluence. There’s a lot of power of using Confluence in research projects – managing, communicating, disseminating, and engaging. It would be fascinating to see more of what people are doing in that respect, and even having a “wiki ring” around those topics. Maybe there could be a registered users page in Confluence sorted by activity? I would have no problem with having my Confluence dashboard linked to other academic research wikis. It would be useful for me to see how other people are using wikis for research, teaching, and learning. One simple way to achieve this could be for Atlassian to establish a space for research users to list their sites, templates and wish lists. There is some specific functionality that is pretty specific to Research projects that would be great to get some agreement on which could lead to some coordinated effort: for instance handling registries of research references, taxonomy publishing and commentary.

Using Wikis for Academic Research...