Facilitating Web-Based Collaboration in Evidence Synthesis (TaskExchange): Development and Analysis

JMIR Res Protoc. 2018 Dec 13;7(12):e188. doi: 10.2196/resprot.9285.


Background: The conduct and publication of scientific research are increasingly open and collaborative. There is growing interest in Web-based platforms that can effectively enable global, multidisciplinary scientific teams and foster networks of scientists in areas of shared research interest. Designed to facilitate Web-based collaboration in research evidence synthesis, TaskExchange highlights the potential of these kinds of platforms.

Objective: This paper describes the development, growth, and future of TaskExchange, a Web-based platform facilitating collaboration in research evidence synthesis.

Methods: The original purpose of TaskExchange was to create a platform that connected people who needed help with their Cochrane systematic reviews (rigorous syntheses of health research) with people who had the time and expertise to help. The scope of TaskExchange has now been expanded to include other evidence synthesis tasks, including guideline development. The development of TaskExchange was initially undertaken in 5 agile development phases with substantial user engagement. In each phase, software was iteratively deployed as it was developed and tested, enabling close cycles of development and refinement.

Results: TaskExchange enables users to browse and search tasks and members by keyword or nested filters, post and respond to tasks, sign up to notification emails, and acknowledge the work of TaskExchange members. The pilot platform has been open access since August 2016, has over 2300 members, and has hosted more than 630 tasks, covering a wide range of research synthesis-related tasks. Response rates are consistently over 75%, and user feedback has been positive.

Conclusions: TaskExchange demonstrates the potential for new technologies to support Web-based collaboration in health research. Development of a relatively simple platform for peer-to-peer exchange has provided opportunities for systematic reviewers to get their reviews completed more quickly and provides an effective pathway for people to join the global health evidence community.

Keywords: internet; intersectoral collaboration; review, systematic; software.