PairResearch_Nov2013_29 copy

Academic research is hard. The path to discovery has many hurdles that can dampen enthusiasm for making progress. While collaboration and help-seeking can boost productivity and produce better research, few mechanisms in academic research directly promote and facilitate it. This is particularly troubling for young researchers, who may only receive feedback on their work in group meetings, work with only a few collaborators (one of whom is their advisor), and be more easily frustrated by setbacks, real or imagined. 

We have been experimenting with a new kind of interaction that we call pair research, in which members are paired up weekly to work together on each other’s projects. We prototyped a system for making pairings and present results from two deployments. Results show that members used pair research in a wide variety of ways including pair programming, user testing, brainstorming, and data collection and analysis. Pair research helped members get things done and share their expertise with others. 

pairresearchPrototype interface for managing the pair research pool. Each week, members describe what they need help with, and enter preference scores on how well they can help others. Members can also remove themselves from the pool temporarily.


Rob Miller, MIT CSAIL
Haoqi Zhang, Northwestern
Eric Gilbert, Georgia Tech
Liz Gerber, Northwestern