Making Tea with Chemists and Bioinformatitians - lessons learned in designing up close and at a distance

Speaker: mc schraefel , University of Southampton

Date: Friday, November 17, 2006

Time: 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM

Refreshments: 1:15 PM

Public: Yes

Location: Star Seminar Room (32-D463)

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Host: Rob Miller, MIT CSAIL

Contact: Rob Miller, x46028,

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Reminder Subject: TALK: Making Tea with Chemists and Bioinformatitians

In our design methods work with Synthetic Chemists in the Smarttea project (, we looked at design approaches to help scientists move from paper lab books to semantic web based digital experiment capture systems. The result was a novel design method (called Making Tea) that focuses on designing for highly expert, idiosyncratic, longitudinal processes.

In the myTea project ( we have been able to investigate how a design method developed in one context can be applied to another. In this case we wanted to look at applying the Making Tea method for a design challenge with with bioinformaticians. The challenge has been to help them keep a record of their always already computer-based experiments. WHere the chemists had a lab book and wanted to go from paper to digital, the bioinformatitians have had no history of recording their experiments. For them, we learned, it has been easier to redo an experiment that to keep track of the hundreds of small files they create working with their web and digital sources.

By re-deploying the Making Tea method in a new context, we have been able to address the bioinformatition experiment capture problem, and by this, consider how that method generalizes. But also, due to unpredicted differences between the two contexts of the two projects, we learned about additional factors in the design process that we would recommend need to be taken into account for prepping future e-Science usability work in particular. This talk reviews the Making Tea design process as developed in the SmartTea project, and as applied in the MyTea project. It also presents the lessons learned in applying the approach in a distributed design environment.

Bio: mc schraefel is a visiting scientist in DIG/CSAIL and is the first visiting fellow of the new Web Science Research Initiative ( between MIT and the University of Southampton, UK. She is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Southampton's IAM Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science. Her research has lately focused on interaction issues for exploratory search and the semantic web.
email: mc at

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See other events that are part of the HCI Seminar Series Fall 2006.

Created by Linda L. Julien Email at Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 6:22 AM.