Infrastructure for project proposals - our top tips
By Neil Chue Hong.
When you are putting together a proposal either for a new development, or to extend an existing piece of software, it can be useful to use infrastructure to support the writing process. In this post I discuss some tips that can help you whether you're part of an international collaboration or just people within a research group.
1. Use shared calendars and meeting schedulers to agree dates
2. Real-time communication is best for discussing ideas and overcoming issues
Whilst face-to-face communication is ideal, if you can't meet physically, tele- or videoconferencing is useful to discuss ideas and overcome problems that require rapid iteration towards a solution.
Real-time chat systems and instant messaging can be useful to initiate quick one-to-one conversations, or to get a quick answer to a question. Group chats (e.g. Skype chat, irc) are useful to keep the proposal writing group informed of progress as an alternative to email.
3. Make sure you can share and edit documents easily
Shared document editing platforms (e.g. Google Docs, wikis) allow many authors to work on a bid document at the same time. It’s important to choose one which keeps a revision history, so you can backtrack if necessary. However, you should ensure there is clarity on who is editing which document.
Alternatively, synchronised storage (e.g. DropBox, SugarSync), a collaboration site (BSCW, Trac), or a version control system (e.g. Subversion, Git) can be used to share complete versions of a document written in a standard word processor or document editor.
A mailing list can be useful for exchanging documents and information as well, though there can be issues for large documents. There is less of a requirement for the mailing list to be archived, because it is set up for a limited time and purpose (but if a back up facility is easy to activate, then it is worthwhile).
If you are in an existing software project or collaboration, it makes sense to use the document sharing and communication systems that people are familiar with, because they do not need to get new login credentials.
Some of the infrastructure used for the project proposal may be useful to carry forward into the project itself (if it is funded). In most cases, it makes sense to think about the project infrastructure from scratch, particularly for new software. This means that you do not need to choose the perfect collaboration infrastructure for your project at the start, you only need to choose what helps you submit a good proposal.
Once your proposal is funded, take a look at our top tips for infrastructure you need to start developing research software, infrastructure for closer collaboration, and infrastructure to strengthen community engagement and deliver reliable software.
Posted by NeilChueHong on Thursday 9 August 2012.