Software that’s made for collaboration

For decades, research manuscript writing has been done in a relatively private and exclusive manner. A small handful of researchers with specified knowledge on facets of a study would contribute, maintaining a rigid sense of science writing that is not reflective of the direction that research seems to be moving in.

Answering this challenge is Manubot, a unique software that allows for wide scale collaboration of manuscript writing and editing. The tool uses the development platform GitHub, which automates elements of the writing process. At its current stage, Manubot can now obtain and process credible data online into quantitative figures that are inserted into manuscripts.

Morgridge Investigator and UW–Madison Biostatistics and Medical Informatics Associate Professor Anthony Gitter co-developed the software with colleagues Halie Rando, Casey Greene, and Daniel Himmelstein at the University of Colorado Anschutz and University of Pennsylvania. The tool has been in development since 2016.

During the pandemic, Manubot served as a valuable program for compiling COVID-19 literature into editable and widely accessible manuscripts. Facing a flood of endless information as studies on COVID-19 rapidly grew, the software allowed researchers to focus on writing and editing while the automation consolidated data.

As time progresses, Gitter sees a promising future for Manubot, and hopes that its potential can be utilized by research organizations in developing their own manuscript projects that are accessible to all.