Reconciling Rhythm: Plans and Temporal Alignment in Collaborative Scientific Work. CSCW ’14.

Reconciling Rhythm: Plans and Temporal Alignment in Collaborative Scientific Work

Stephanie B. Steinhardt, Steven J. Jackson


Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) | Baltimore, MD | February 15-19, 2014


Plans and planning assume a central role and challenge of collaborative scientific work, bridging and coordinating often discordant rhythms and events emanating from the organizational, infrastructural, biographical and phenomenal dimensions of collaborative life. Plans align rhythms embedded in local practice with those operating at larger institutional levels, and establish shared temporal baselines around which local choice and action may be calibrated. This paper develops these arguments through ethnographic study of the Ocean Observatories Initiative, a prominent U.S.-based large-scale long-term collaborative research program in the ocean sciences. We emphasize the intersection between rhythms and plans at two crucial moments: formation (“plans-in-the-making”), and enactment (“plans-in-action”) across complex fields of practice. Our findings hold important implications for CSCW research and practice around scientific and large-scale collaborative efforts, and for federal science policies meant to support productive forms of cooperation and discovery.