Building a geocollaboratory: Supporting Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) collaborative science activities

Alan M. MacEachren, William Pike, Chaoqing Yu, Isaac Brewer, Mark Gahegan, Stephen D. Weaver, Brent Yarnal

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

38 Scopus citations


Collaboratories have been defined as centers without walls, virtual places where teams of scientists can undertake coordinated research. As part of the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) infrastructure project, we have been developing a geocollaboratory to support work by geographically distributed scientists about geographic problems. Our specific focus is on science teams developing and applying protocols for long-term study of the local and regional scale human impacts of global environmental change. The HERO geocollaboratory includes web and other Internet-based tools to enable same-time and different-time (thus synchronous and asynchronous) different-place collaboration. Methods and tools have been developed to support (1) synchronous distributed meetings that include video links and shared visual display of geospatial information; (2) asynchronous perspective comparison and consensus building activities; and (3) long-term information sharing and knowledge development. This paper introduces the research effort, sketches the conceptual framework within which the geocollaboratory is being developed, outlines progress thus far in the three collaboratory components listed above, and discusses our experiences using these tools for distributed science as well as our plans for continued development. We direct specific attention to three web-based, collaborative tools we have developed in support of components 2 and 3 above: an e-Delphi tool (supporting sharing and comparing of expert opinions), a concept-mapping tool that supports building, sharing, and comparing concept relationship diagrams linked to formal ontologies, and a web portal (called Codex) that provides a personal workspace, mechanisms for forming groups and accessing group resources, and methods for encoding knowledge objects that include geographic referencing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages25
Specialist publicationComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
StatePublished - Mar 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Urban Studies


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