This paper analyzes interactions on the public-access online forum of the Human Brain Project (HBP), a major European Union-funded neuroscience research initiative, to understand the utility of the Forum for collaborative problem solving. We construct novel data using posts and detailed user profiles on the Forum, plus proprietary and public sources. We find that post-level HBP Forum utilization is comparable to that of a leading general-interest coding platform, and that online usage metrics quickly recovered after an initial COVID-19-related dip. Regression results show that user interactions on the Forum are more active for programming questions and questions in HBP core areas. Further, Cox proportional hazard analyses show that such problems are solved faster. Forum posts with users from different countries tend to be discussed more actively but solved slower. Higher shares of administrator support tend to solve problems faster. There are no clear patterns regarding gender and seniority. Our results suggest that building novel collaborative forums can support researchers working on complex topics in challenging times; further study is needed to understand the cost effectiveness of the institution.
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