When looking at group interactions and the sharing of information in nature we came to an interesting solution found in red harvester ant colonies. In these ant colonies there are are certain ants that are specialized in propagating the information gathered by their own subgroup, e.g. in the search for food, to the other subgroups. In this way, the ant colony as a whole is continuously updated with information gathered by its constituting parts in an ongoing process of information synchronization.
Human beings want to be rewarded for work they’ve done. We recognise this behavior in very different systems going from fungi to evolution based on rewards.
Starting form this example we started thinking about how to stimulate different research groups in a faculty to increase collaboration and exchange of ideas so that truly multidisciplinary research would ensue. This would stimulate research and innovation in the institute and increase chances for assuming a leading international role.
We also started to think about how information could be shared in a university in different ways than the traditional lectures. We believe that information should be shared more organically, in a way that student can take advantage of the expertise of individuals in the faculty. Moreover, the dissemination of knowledge should be made fit for more modular and personalized education, in order to accomodate the needs of students with different backgrounds and following different trajectories. As we think that education will become more personalized and focus on project-based learning, we want to create a platform to support these new forms of learning
A third role would be to facilitate the reporting of activity and achievements with the goal of attracting and recruiting students to specific research groups for the purpose of PhDs, theses and smaller scale projects.
Since this reporting system should be integrated with the information infrastructure (central nervous system) of the building, we decided to integrate it in a webapp that is to edit and access from everywhere, so that the information can be directly presented on screens or information boards in the faculty building. As such the editing and posting of information would be live, without the intervention of a webmaster or other personnel. Since maintaining and updating the reporting system requires a little effort of the participants, we thought that it would be necessary to incorporate an incentive/reward system. The first incentive would be that of prestige, when one’s article is featured on central information board or website or when a page receives a lot of visitors. Another way of rewarding people could be to offer them the opportunity to give presentations to larger audiences or lectures to students if their was sufficient interest in their research. However, this should not be done exclusively based on pageviews: interesting projects could also be selected by a jury and offered the opportunity to present.
Design of the webapp
The website makes it possible for research groups to present their research. They can write an article explaining their importance, goal, methods and solutions which they want to share. All the articles will be collected and put into one pool. The website will be representative for the innovations of the faculty, and can be presented on central information screens in the faculty building. On the main page, users will see flashes of the most important results and creative projects. The user will be able to filter the articles on different criteria as research group, author, subject, importance of the research, creativity, popularity,.... . This way, students can make contact with researchers or professors and start cooperation for thesisses, PhD’s and so on. This way, interesting research can be rewarded by extra attention which can lead to new opportunities such as presentations for a bigger audience, student lectures or international conferences. As in nature, a rewarding system will be the drive to success.