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International collaboration?

The Royal Society just came out with a report on the internationalization (if that's a word) of science. China now produces the second-highest number of papers, but rates last in percent of papers involving international collaboration. Why so little collaboration? Three hypotheses:
1) the rest of the world doesn't realize all the great science they're doing in China, so is missing out on opportunities to collaborate with excellent researchers,
2) Chinese scientists are doing great work, but are reluctant to collaborate with outsiders,
3) the average quality of science in China is less than you would expect from the number of papers.
These aren't mutually exclusive and there could be other possibilities. In any case, increased emphasis on science in China seems like a good thing, for various reasons, while I worry that budget constraints (and politics) may hurt science in the US.

The Royal Society report also shows that papers with authors from more countries get cited more. Three of the six papers I've published so far this year (and one we're submitting this week) have authors from 2 or more countries, but all three were review articles. So collaboration mainly involved emailing manuscripts back and forth. Collaborations involving experiments in two or more countries seem trickier.

Apart from airplanes, parcel express, and email, can any of you recommend tools useful for remote collaboration? Seems like being able to see the same data that's on collaborators' computer screens while talking over an audio connection would be useful. Are there better options for this than Skype's "share screen" mode (which seems to have some limitations)?


VNC is by far the best remote desktop/screen sharing tool I've used. Its mainly intended for unix geeks, but it does a remarkably good job of it.

The free version is at:

It's hard to beat Google Apps for collaboration. My father and I have been using it to design phone apps while I'm traveling. I've also setup some businesses with it and they've all been pleased.

You can get a free account for sharing emails, spreadsheets in Google Docs with realtime collaboration or even create a private website for hosting your archive of data, articles to read and other information.

Also, a shared Dropbox account is great for hosting larger files. It's a free program that syncs a designated folder to the web and to your collaborators.

Let me know if you have any questions because I've done a lot with this kind of collaboration.

Thanks for the suggestions! I'd heard of but not used Google Aps and Dropbox, so appreciate the endorsement.

I found some claims that tightVNC can be used by viruses. The Russia-based company that supplies it apparently provides source code, though. Any credible security assessments out there?

I use TeamViewer which I have installed on my PC and iPad. It is also free.

I second the Google suggestion. I personally have found very useful Google Docs word processor's ability of tracking changes and allowing multiple users to work on a document at the same time.

Your suggestions inspired me to try Dropbox. So far, I'm just using it for backup and (if our internet connection at home ever gets fixed) to synchronize files between computers, but it does seem like it should be great for collaboration.

Dropbox is really a great collab tool together with Google Apps.

Been using it for work for more than a year now.

Great post

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