Helping make cancer research easier

Learn how cancer researchers at UCLA's Graeber Lab use Simul to better collaborate on cancer research papers

An outdated process

Writing cancer research papers is a long and time consuming process, with hundreds of versions of the research paper being created over time by 10+ collaborators.

Before using Simul, the team at the Graeber Lab at UCLA would follow a typical version control and collaboration process.

Someone would start writing the report and then would save it on a shared folder on the lab’s Dropbox account. Other members would then open the document, make their edits and save it as a new file, usually with a crazy filename like ‘Research_V27_ DaveEdits’.

Problems with this approach

hard to find latest version

Hard to find latest version

There were 100’s of files in the Dropbox folder with crazy filenames like ‘Research V32_Dave_FINAL’. This made it really difficult to know what the latest version was and would often result in people making edits to the wrong version.

Communication spread everywhere

The team would use a combination of Word comments, emails and Slack messages to have conversations about the document, inform others of what needed to be done, etc. This was messy and often meant people missed key information they needed to effectively work on the document.

no history of changes

No history of changes

With changes spread across hundreds of files, it was impossible to go back and see how the document evolved over time, who made what changes, and why. And if the team ever needed to access content from a previous version, it took forever to find.

Simplified document collaboration

Now that the team are using Simul, the process of collaborating on, and version controlling, their research reports has gotten a lot easier.

One person will kick off writing the paper in Word, and when they’re done with the first writing session they upload it to Simul and invite the others to collaborate on it. Instantly, the rest of the team can see where the document is at and access the latest version.

When collaborators want to make edits, they simply click the ‘Open in Word’ button in Simul and the document opens in Word on their computer. They make their edits, click ‘Save’ and a new version is automatically created. No need to remember to ‘Save As’ or come up with some crazy filename for version control.

They even use Simul’s comment feature to add notes and have conversations about the document, which keeps both the document and the conversation about it, in one place.

Benefits of using Simul

access latest version word document

Easily access latest versin

The Simul interface makes it super easy to know what the latest version is, and even warns us if we accidentally try to open and work on an old version.

see history of changes word document

See the full history of changes

Simul makes it easy to view previous versions of a document and what changed between each version, even if Track Changes weren’t turned on. And because the conversation about the document is in the same place as the document itself, we can not only see what changed and who changed it, but why it was changed as well.

revert to previous

Easily access old content

We can easily revert to a previous version of a document, or open old versions and copy and paste content out.

“Simul allows anyone on our team to access the latest version of a document instantly. It automatically creates versions, allows us to compare them to see what changed, and gives us a full version history of the document. It’s made writing research reports so much easier.”

Nikolas UCLA Version Control Word

Nikolas Balanis - Cancer Researcher, UCLA

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