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Tools that help researchers see the big picture

From Nature Careers

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thanks to Stephen Phillips – for sharing their work on Unsplash.

In January 2019, NASA announced that its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite had discovered a planet about three times the diameter of Earth. The planet, orbiting a dwarf star 16 parsecs (53 light years) away, was found using sophisticated equipment including the satellite itself and the Magellan II telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. But its discovery also relied on a more prosaic tool, says astronomer Johanna Teske: the project-management software Trello.

The five-university consortium that oversees the telescope uses Trello to track and manage the queue of astronomical targets that different teams want to observe, says Teske, who works at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California. “The way that Trello organises information seemed very much in line with the type of information we wanted to capture,” she says, and it’s worked well.

Popular project-management tools for research teams include Trello and Jira, both from the company Atlassian in Sydney, Australia, as well as Asana and GitHub project boards, both in San Francisco, California. These tools are more than simple to-do lists. They help teams to see the broad view of a project, allowing users to create and complete tasks, meet deadlines, capture detail-rich notes and provide templates for common protocols. The tagging functions of these tools allow managers to assign tasks to team members. If used well, they can make teams more efficient and minimize frustrations such as forgotten tasks and duplicated work.

In short, project-management tools and the managers who use them “connect the details with the high-level goals”, says Tracy Teal. As the executive director of Dryad, a non-profit repository for open data in Durham, North Carolina, she uses several such tools.

Read the full article here on the Nature Careers website, to get some new ideas for your toolbox –

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