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These days, it’s more and more common to work on research proposals with entire teams of researchers, many of whom may be coming from other disciplines, campuses or even countries.  Luckily, the internet is full of great, cloud-based collaborative tools ideal for helping Principal Investigators and research teams put their heads together—anytime, anywhere!

The following are a few of my favorites—tools that fit the busy, collaborative lifestyle of PIs and give research teams the flexibility, agility and efficiency they need to stay competitive.

Evernote Suite – Capture Ideas and Inspiration, Whenever and Wherever They Strike

Collecting, categorizing, and sharing information is really easy with Evernote. You can use it to save papers, meeting notes, sketches, blog posts, lectures, photos, websites—anything you want to hang on to and be able to find later.

You can also use Evernote on your computer, smartphone or tablet! Plus your notebooks can be easily shared with your entire research team. Just think if everyone could jot down and share their brilliant ideas the second they have them. How many more problems could your team solve?

The Evernote Suite has (so far) eight products, but these three are my favorites:

  • The main product is the Evernote desktop application, which you’ll use to create notes from scratch, as well as to organize and browse through your notebooks.
  • Personally, I can’t live without the Evernote Web Clipper! It’s a browser extension that lets you “clip” content from your browser—think newspaper clippings, but updated for the internet age.
  • For tablet users, take the Evernote Penultimate app to your next brainstorming session. You can handwrite notes, sketch out ideas and save both right to your notebooks.


Prezi – Build Beautiful Presentations As A Team

Although Prezi usually gets attention for its cool new design options, its collaborative capabilities are just fantastic. This cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) presentation tool allows up to ten members of your research team to work on a presentation whenever it’s convenient for them – even with no internet access! You can edit your presentations with the desktop or iPad app, and your changes will be synced the next time you connect. Prezi streamlines the process of building a collaborative presentation and it’s much faster than emailing it around.

Google Drive – Write, Edit and Comment On Documents Live

Google Drive provides a free, cloud-based alternative of Microsoft Office—all you need is a Google account. You and your team can create documents in a variety of formats, including word processing documents, spreadsheets and slideshows. Plus, you can share documents with any number of other Google users.

The best thing about Google Drive, as a collaborative tool, is that several people can be working on a document in real time. Changes show up immediately on everyone’s screens, and with a built-in chat window you can discuss changes in real time too, right next to the document. Plus, like Prezi, Drive also has an option to edit your documents when you’re offline.

Whether your research team is spread across the campus or across the world, it’s definitely worth exploring some of these cloud-based collaborative tools, especially given that all three are free to try. (Drive is free altogether!) If you’re anything like me, after working on a few projects with these tools, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them.


What tools do you use to make your collaborative projects go smoothly? Share them with us in the comments section below!

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