UCI hosts Workshop on Social Coordination Across Large Environments

The Department of Informatics hosted a workshop for the participants in the NSF “SCALE” grant. ISR Prof. André van der Hoek and ISR Prof. David Redmiles are co-PIs for the University of California, Irvine portion of the grant which involves three universities in total: UC Irvine, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (ISR faculty associate and alumna Prof. Anita Sarma, PI), and Carnegie Mellon University (Profs. James Herbsleb, Laura Dabbish, & Linda Argote, PIs/co-PIs). The workshop brought together about 20 faculty, graduate students, post docs, and visiting researchers working together on themes of the grant. The acronym SCALE stands for “Social Coordination Across Large Environments.” This title seeks to capture a set of research themes around software tool support for distributed work environments.

As many of the readers of this newsletter will know, most work today takes place using email, issue tracking systems, IM, code hosting sites (e.g. GitHub), and other tools for supporting distributed work. It is an on-going topic of research, how to best support this distributed work and how organizations are effected by and can affect distributed work. In the past, at UCI, Redmiles and van der Hoek have studied how collaborators can best maintain awareness of and coordinate one another’s work, while working apart in a geographic sense. Currently under this grant, Redmiles and his team have expanded the research on awareness to seek how trust can be encouraged or engendered among collaborators who may never meet. Van der Hoek and his team have expanded notions of coordination to include crowdsourcing. The teams at Nebraska, including Prof. Anita Sarma, and Carnegie Mellon, including ISR alumnus Erik Trainer, a post-doctoral researcher, have studied how code-hosting sites such as GitHub have affected the way employers and collaborators assess one another as well as coordinate work. The researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have also studied how knowledge spreads in distributed settings with different kinds of teams. More information can be found in the publications on the web page for the SCALE group at

Two participants gave keynote addresses to kick off the workshop. Dr. Brian Skyrms (Distinguished Professor in Logic and Philosophy of Science, UCI & Stanford) gave a keynote on using game theory to model problems of cooperation. Dr. James Herbsleb (one of the grant’s PIs and a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University) gave a keynote more generally on socio-technical coordination, previewing his keynote talk for the 2014 International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE). Attendees from all three universities presented posters, and participated in multiple overall group discussions, special interest group discussions, and brainstorming sessions. The workshop took place May 13-15, enabling participants to attend the ISR Research Forum held on May 16, 2014.


This article appeared in ISR Connector issue: