A Collaborative, On-line Innovation Network (COIN) in Healthcare Sustainability (HCS).

COIN: “[A] cyberteam of self-motivated people with a collective vision, enabled by the Web to collaborate in achieving a common goal by sharing ideas, information, and work.” (Gloor, 2006).

The current model of the scholarly society is rooted in the 15th century invention of the printing press.  A 21st century mode of scholarship should be designed to leverage information-communication technology.  Scott Unger, a PhD student in sustainable engineering at Arizona State University, proposes a collaborative, on-line innovation network (COIN) that reorganizes the typical communication patterns of peer review and publication.  He proposes a blend of information and communications technologies and real life interaction, and claims that emerging research areas, such as sustainability in the healthcare industry, have a particular need for this new type of scholarly community.

Figure 1 is an illustration of the current communications topology of peer review at ISSST.

Figure 1

Figure 1: A broadcast topology to knowledge sharing introduces multiple bottlenecks.

While information communications technology (ICT) such as softconf.com reduce time and cost in submitting papers (compared to the archaic, snail mail alternative), the model laces centralized bottlenecks on communication that were efficient when information transactions were expensive, but now is suboptimal in an information-rich technology context.  Unger proposes a network-based alternative that facilitates greater visibility and interaction between all levels of participants—authors, reviewers, administrators, attendees and more.

The proposed model is depicted in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2: A network structure expands knowledge interactions without adding to costs.

While softconf.com channels communication through narrow lines specific to established roles (author, reviewer, administrator), WordPress allows for more flexible access management for both public and password-protected audiences.  This ICT tool can embed various forms of media, transform community discussion into archival information, and provide meta-data on the interest level in certain topics or works.  Additionally, social media tools like Twitter can provide in-real-time discussion capabilities and present a public face of the conference.  Most of these ICTs are already compatible with each other at no extra cost to the scholarly community.

Simply put, Unger et al challenge ISSST to take the existing Community of Practice model and adapt it to ICTs, creating the first scholarly COIN in the field of heathcare sustainability.

Below is the abstract and a link to the full proposal.

The Online Session Chair: A Proposal for a Collaborative, On-line Innovation Network (COIN) in Healthcare Sustainability (HCS).

Scott Unger, Thomas P Seager & Amy E Landis


The existing model of a scholarly or scientific society was formed in parallel with the 15th century invention of Gutenberg’s printing press and has remained static ever since.  Knowledge sharing is conducted through meetings in real life and peer-reviewed scientific papers.  However, advances in information-communication-technologies have resulted in qualitative improvements in on-line knowledge sharing that go well beyond merely reducing publication and correspondence costs.  This paper presents a vision for a 21st century knowledge community called a collaborative on-line innovation network (COIN) that: includes practitioners and other knowledge stakeholders, in addition to academics and trained scientists, leverages rapid advances in ICT, and reconfigures outdated models of peer review and scientific discourse.  Because existing scholarly communities remain entrenched in a structure that pre-dates the Industrial Revolution, this paper supposes that ready application of the COIN model will be in an emergent knowledge domain with few precedent obstacles – namely Healthcare Sustainability (HCS).


To date, scholarly efforts that focus on improving the sustainability of the healthcare industry are limited in comparison to other applications (Kwakye, Pronovost, & Makary, 2010).  Although recent studies are beginning to concentrate attention on limiting environmental impacts attributed to the healthcare system, there is a need to create a new, scholarly community distinguished by its ability to assess and mitigate environmental and economic inefficiencies, as well as social injustices.   A scholarly community with a focus on sustainability in healthcare can be achieved by leveraging information and communications technology (ICT) to further collaboration among its members, particularly in setting that includes meetings in real life (IRL).


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