- Posted by Kate on October 22, 2019
Overleaf at CERN: Supporting Thousands of Research Collaborations
3D dipole integration panoramic poster: cds.cern.ch/record/1996997 ©️ CERN.
Since its founding in 1954, CERN (https://home.cern/) has been at the forefront of the creation, development and adoption of new technology to help uncover what the universe is made of and how it works. CERN brings together people from all over the world to push forward the boundaries of human knowledge, helping to inspire and train the next generation of scientists and engineers in the process.
In 2016, CERN was looking to adopt a single, collaborative authoring tool to provide to their researchers. They conducted a year-long trial of three platforms, with Overleaf (https://www.overleaf.com) emerging as the best fit.
“The subsequent launch of Overleaf at CERN has been a huge success, with usage in the first year and a half growing by over 800% to include more than 3,600 CERN members across many different departments and specialities.”
Nikos Kasioumis, Software Engineer in the IT department at CERN and leader of the CERN authoring trial
The Overleaf editor with the CERN report template preloaded.
- To find an authoring tool which would allow CERN researchers to focus on the content of their writing and not the process of writing.
- To find an authoring tool which would work for CERN’s large and varied collaborative projects, and help consolidate different writing styles and formats.
- To find an authoring tool which would be adopted and widely-used by the CERN community.
- The trial included a broad cross-section of different types of users: 45 users across nine different departments in total.
- The trial provided access to three authoring platforms, and gave the users test cases and the flexibility to work on their own projects using the tools.
- The trial was initially expected to run for 6 months, but was extended to over a year to allow users to try real-collaborations, which naturally start at different times.
- Overleaf was the preferred option following the assessment by the trial participants.
- 97% of trial participants agreed that a CERN-supported authoring platform would be useful to them, and 63% chose Overleaf.
- Usage of the Overleaf service grew by over 800% during the first 18 months. (User Stats: 411 users at the start of 2018 grew to 3600 by mid-2019)
Overleaf is a collaborative, cloud-based writing platform with over 4.5 million users worldwide as of mid-2019. We’re helping to make the process of writing, editing and publishing scientific documents quicker and easier for students, teachers and researchers alike.
Overleaf was founded by two mathematicians in 2012. They had been working on a project involving many partners to build autonomous cars, and work between team members had been challenging. So they built a light-weight, LaTeX-based collaboration system and used it for writing their research papers. It was simple to use - all you needed was a web browser.
Overleaf has since seen rapid adoption across science and research, and our market-leading collaboration technology is now in use in universities, labs and industry worldwide. These include major institutions such as Stanford and Caltech, with Overleaf becoming an important part not only of research collaborations but also of undergraduate teaching.
Most recently, Overleaf acquired its nearest competitor ShareLaTeX, and our combined team has worked together to build an even stronger next-generation platform to take collaborative writing to the next level.
About the CERN trial leaders, Nikos and Valeria
Nikos Kasioumis, Software Engineer in the IT department at CERN and Valeria Brancolini, Publisher in the CERN Scientific Information Service proposed and led the trial, from the first initiative through to the official launch of Overleaf at CERN at the start of 2018.
Valeria comes from a publishing background, and this experience helped in her role of evaluating the current processes and tools CERN researchers were using to write manuscripts, how researchers were working together, what tools were working, and what additional tools and support were required.
Nikos has always been involved in web-based services and software, including document-related software and services, and so was a natural fit to work with Valeria on this evaluation of authoring tools. After the trial was complete, Nikos coordinated the successful launch of the Overleaf platform at CERN, and continues to conduct follow up interviews and surveys to provide ongoing feedback to the Overleaf team.