Such joint work generates the best results. Another advantage is that we don’t need to involve everyone on a full-time basis – a few joint meetings and well maintained documentation are usually enough to allow other team members to control the project developments. Online tools, such as Google Docs, project management systems or GitHub, where you can always find the current version of your script or data, are of invaluable help under such conditions.
- How does such collaboration work in practice?
Once a research problem has been defined – be it the geographical accessibility of culture in Katowice – we usually call up a meeting of 3-4 people to throw some ideas on the table and later try to form some hypotheses and work out detailed assumptions. Meanwhile, we join our analysts and developers to try and search out the relevant content, using e.g. the Google Maps APIs, as the case may be with respect to accessibility research. Along the way, it takes a lot of time to clean up the data, mainly converting it to specific formats, so that it is compatible with other environments and programs.
We then perform a number of analyses, often using exploratory data visualisation, where we generate dozens of statistics and working graphs to see what comes out of the content (in our accessibility study, we liked to plunk the data into a map straight away to make it easier to spot some patterns and possible errors). It is essential that all team members should have access to these visualisations, regardless of whether they are involved in exploration. To this end, we create simple report prototypes, usually using the R Markdown library, which can be easily published online and then quickly updated as comments or new ideas arrive.
This content, supplemented by source data in appropriate formats (usually in csv or json text files), is then forwarded to graphic designers to work on visualisations and presentation layouts. Ultimately, the project is taken over by developers, who take care of the website with study results. Of course, discussions and consultations continue at all stages, as the project is always a team effort.