The Multi-Disciplinary Development of Collaborative Grids:

The Multi-Disciplinary Development
of Collaborative Grids:
The social shaping of a Grid for Healthcare
By Avgousta Kyriakidou and Dr. Will Venters
The London School of Economics and Political Science /
This research was undertaken as part of Pegasus
EPSRC: Grant No: EP/D049954/1
Introduction – The Grid
Storing, distributing and processing the large amounts of data in a
distributed manner
Computers, storage devices and sensors connected by very fast networks –
and Middleware to “virtualise” these resources.
“Overturn strategic operating assumptions, alter industrial economics, upset
markets, and pose daunting challenges to every user and vendor” (Carr
2005)… “will provide the electronic foundation for a global society in
business, government, research, science and education” (Berman et al
Virtual Organisations:
Reflects collaborative nature of science (Chompalov et al., 2002)
Allows management of Grid resources by distributed groups
Defines what is shared and rules for sharing (Foster et al., 2001)
HealthCareGrid (pseudonym) Grid Mammography Analysis
Collaborative image analysis without the clinicians having to co-locate;
distributed resources sharing; security, standardization and compliance.
Aim of the study
There must be a greater appreciation of the social and political context of Grid
infrastructures’ development and use (Orzech 2003).
Developing and implementing such complex infrastructure requires collaborative
working among a range of disciplinary groups and organizations (Hanseth &
Monteiro 1998).
Reflects debates in Management Studies literature on the need for
research relevance advocating industry involvement in order to bridge
“Relevance gap” and suggested through trans-disciplinary research
collaborations (Starkey & Madon 2001) and interest in universityindustry relationships (Inzelt 2004)(Also Porac et al, Mitev & Venters).
Social Construction of technology
SCOT as an approach to help us look at how technology is constructed in society and
through its use (Howcroft et al., 2004)
We consider Grids as embedded in social systems and that their development is
determined by social factors and by the meanings attributed to it by different
We explore HealthscanGrid’s development through SCOT as a means of
understanding how the interpretations and interactions among different groups
influence and eventually shape their final attitude towards the prototype
(Orlikowski, 1992).
Relevant Social Groups & Technological frames
Inconsistencies (incongruence) in the technological frames between the relevant social groups
within a collaboration can create problems in developing, implementing and using
technology, as well as a breakdown in communication, lack of participation by its users, etc
(Orlikowski & Gash, 1994).
The HealthscanGrid project (cont..)
Aimed to investigate the feasibility of developing a European database of
mammograms using a data grid to support collaboration and communication
among clinicians across the EU in medical diagnosis.
Collaboration of 5 different institutions:
HospitalUK, HospitalItalia: end-users, providing the information and medical
data to go into the HealthscanGrid, as well as the requirements and feedback to
the developers
UniversityWestUK: responsible for gathering comprehensive requirements
from users and for the development of the database
MedicalXYZ (a small spin-off SME company) (UK): adapt their already
existing mammogram software to meet the HealthscanGrid’s requirements
PAL the world’s largest particle-physics accelerator laboratory
(Switzerland): provide the Grid together with the Grid expertise, and also
leading the project as project-coordinator
EU Funded for three years. Concluded with successful prototype delivered to
Spanish private company
Problems emerged during
• 5 institutions: people from different disciplines and with
conflicting priorities and expectations
•“Each institution applies for funding… People are meeting together
for a common purpose: the funding…It is just business…
• Poor teamwork and leadership: Individuals felt they contributed
more than they received from the project.
•The PAL group developed the Grid but didn’t take medical
computing needs into account e.g. security and confidentiality.
•HospitalItalia couldn’t “talk” to its own software; Italia Clinicians
had to travel to HospitalUK to see their images, as well as
HospitalUK’s images
Analysis and findings
Three relevant social groups identified:
1. Academic-Developers’ group: two institutions; particle
physics group from PAL and the team of academics and
Ph.D. students from UniversityWestUK.
2. Commercial group: staff at MedicalXYZ, a small start-up
company interested in business, growing as a company and
making money.
3. Health Care Users’ group: end-users of the project; little
computing competency or technical skills and interests had
nothing to do with commercial work.
Analysis – Congruence or
Initiation and impact:
Academic -Developers’ group: Improvement in clinical diagnosis; help
society in general; opportunity for hospitals to change their structure,
upgrade their technologies in order to be able to facilitate collaboration
through the Grid. If successful, it could be adapted and used for other
applications in medicine.
Commercial group: Impact in terms of the changes it could offer in the
status, structure, the technical expertise of the company as well as in
the way they did business.
HealthcareUsers’ group: Impact in terms of providing solutions to the
problems surrounding breast cancer today, as well as to the
improvement in clinical diagnosis and treatment.
Technological frames – Congruence
or Incongruence? (cont..)
Functionalities and Capabilities:
Academic-Developers’ group:
Epidemiological studies; as a second opinion doctor; comparisons of similar cases.
No formal implementation and training plan found to be necessary. Highlighted the
need for security, patient consent and confidentiality to be considered.
Commercial group:
Opportunity to develop better algorithms for their own projects.
No clear expectations about daily usage. Knew, and only cared that, the project could
help them commercially. Argued that hospitals might not wish to share their data.
HealthcareUsers’ group:
Focus on teaching and real-time usage to collaborate during surgery.
Little experience with technologies, expected formal implementation and training plan to
be provided.
Expected Grid for epidemiology studies, as a second opinion doctor, as a teaching aid,
as well as to be used in some way within surgery.
Concern about security and confidentiality.
Technological frames – Congruence
or Incongruence? (cont..)
Expectations regarding the final output:
Academic -Developers’ group:
It was just a prototype, so left aspects e.g. user-friendliness and automated aside.
Particle physicists’ team provide knowledge from physics to develop a prototype, that
was useful and had potential to become a commercial product.
Academics’ team: a successful prototype which would provide them with a large
number of PhDs and publications upon which their personal success is judged.
Commercial group:
Did not expect benefits from the prototype itself, but from acquiring technical
expertise throughout the development.
Wanted to be visible as technical leaders in the market field, a goal they achieved.
HealthcareUsers’ group:
Expected a system that could improve clinical diagnosis, project cancer risk
accurately, be used in a real-time basis and as a teaching tool.
Expected it to be user-friendly and automated.
When the prototype was delivered to them and put into use they found it extremely
hard to cope with.
Closure and Stabilization
The groups knew that if they did not deliver what they had promised and
what the EU was paying for, they would not get the money
 they reached a form of closure and stabilization, because in a way
they had to, rather than common consensus.
They put aside their expectations and understandings concerning the
HealthscanGrid, and they all worked together in order to manage to
“People just stopped talking to each other… when this happened, [the
funding representative] was shouting at them. He said ‘that’s it pack up
the project and give me back the money’ That’s when they got scared
and started being nice to each others. They had to, because they had
promised the EU to deliver. So, they needed someone to shout at
1. While collaborative multi-disciplinary projects may be
advantageous in order to bridge the ‘relevance gap’
(Starkey & Madan, 2001) by ensuring that Grids reflect the
needs of users within various sectors; we should not forget
that such disciplines have different reasons for participating
in such projects.
2. While producing relevant Grids is important, those involved
in leading Grid development (including funding bodies)
should appreciate more the interpretation of the project
made by its participants.
3. Socio-technical problems may be linked through the
requirements gathering to the varying interpretations of the
project by the relevant social groups involved.
Conclusions (cont..)
If Grid’s are indeed to support global collaborative working practice
then we should consider how conflicting interpretations by the relevant
social groups towards the technology and the project become
embedded within Grids’ “Virtual Organisations” rather than considering
Grids as a transparent infrastructure.
“Virtual Organisations” of Grids are more than technical mapping of the
anticipated Grid users collaboration
We suggest that they are a socially constructed formula which
represents the negotiation of the relevant social group’s collaboration
in the Grid’s construction – and are thus central to the stabilization of
the technology in use, and hence to the project’s success
If projects simply ‘mechanistically pool’ the expertise of the participant
disciplines then such stability of Grids may prove difficult to achieve.