I am a research student. Though me and my advisor used to meet regularly, nowadays due to workload, I usually remain outstation and not able to meet him personally.

I do work continuously and meet him at least once a month but am not able to take as much input from my advisor as I would like. (limitations of my physical availability).He doesn't prefer video chatting and pretty hesitant in replying to emails in depth.

Putting in crux, how to track research progress myself and update my advisor simultaneously. I would have preferred a wiki like page, whose URL(private) I can share with my advisor, where he could look at my progress and comment. It could also assist organizing my own research.

What tools would be recommended in such scenario ?

  • How about Trac? – Marc Claesen Mar 22 '14 at 20:09
  • You could use something as simple as etherpad. – Faheem Mitha Mar 22 '14 at 20:52
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    Is it a problem with software or with his time (management) or engagement? If mails and Skype do not work I doubt any other technological solution would work - except for telephone. – Piotr Migdal Mar 22 '14 at 21:07

I am in this exact situation right now since I'm on sabbatical and (some of) my students are back in my home institution. Unlike your advisor though, I'm quite comfortable with skype/G+ and use them regularly.

But to keep track of progress, I use a flavor of github that people in my department run (I also use github and bitbucket directly). As long as your advisor is comfortable using version control systems, and can set up their account for automatic emails when you commit something, it's easy for you to keep them updated and for them to see updates you've made.

I also make sure to have an agenda file in reverse chronological order to keep track of what we've been working on and what progress has been made since our last meeting.

One of the advantage of version control systems like git/svn/hg is that it's relatively easy to see what has changed since the last commit, or since 5 commits ago, which will help your advisor. Although if they don't like video chatting or replying to email, I do wonder if they're technically savvy enough to use git :)

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For wiki documentation, documents, RSS feeds and source code I would recommend a tool like redmine, which also has version control integration. This can be a local installation in some university server, in case you do not what project publicly available. But for progress, bugs I would recommend something like trello (https://trello.com/) for several reasons: a) it is a web based tool b) it is free c) you can add private projects and add additional users per project d) has automatic user notifications (e-mail) in case someone adds something to its dedicated trello blog.

So, a combination of redmine (for wiki, src code, documents and version control) and trello (for user notifications, blog bugs etc..) I think it is pretty much what you need.

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Please note that this was my dissertation project, and I co-founded the organization that currently maintains and develops it, but take a look at the Open Science Framework:


It's a completely free service for documenting, sharing, collaborating, archiving, and registering materials across the scientific process. You can use the site privately or choose to make pieces of your workflow public.

It should support the scenario you mentioned, and, if not, we'd be glad to use any feedback you'd be willing to provide to make adjustments. It can also connect and integrate services like Amazon S3, Fighshare, and Github, and we have a variety of other add-ons in the works (10 or so) including Dropbox, Trello, and Evernote. Some of those might be helpful extensions in managing the collaboration with your advisor.

Please do follow-up if you try it--you can email me personally at my first name at cos.io if you'd like.

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