I attended the Engineering Researcher Symposium last Friday (30 June 2017) and the message that came across to me, was that often collaboration isn’t about having a research idea and then looking for collaborators, but rather it can be by talking to others, that ideas for collaboration come about.
This means that if you aren’t taking the time to find out about other research, then you are missing out! With an array of talks from all departments and a large poster exhibition, there was certainly no excuse for not being able to find out about what was going on across the Faculty of Engineering. ( and it was free for other faculties to attend)
So, if you are pursuing a career in research, do you consider how much time you put aside to meet others and generate ideas? If you go to a conference do you make the effort to go and talk to those, who maybe outside of your field of research and comfort zone?
If you do meet up with someone and consider working on a research idea with them, take the time to ensure the relationship is set up to take into account everyone’s expectations and goals and that you have the
right skills and resources in the team to make the project work. Consider carefully if you really need anyone who doesn’t bring anything extra to the team, as ‘passengers’ can cause conflict, so it’s best to tackle this upfront as it will be harder to try and remove them from the team later. It is also an idea to agree early on over who gets the credit, order of names on publications etc to avoid problems later.
Once you have found your collaborators and set up the project, that is just the start of the relationship. You need to then work on maintaining the team by building trust, communicating effectively and preventing/managing conflicts. Working with others can be hard but very rewarding and the experience can be made easier by taking the time to ensure it runs smoothly.
Collaboration can provide greater accomplishments. When effective, the combined resources and skills of a group of people can solve complex problems and achieve amazing results.
Many people still worry about involving others and that is understandable, as we have all had experiences or heard about things that can go wrong. It can also be a challenge to work with a team, when under pressure to deliver results within a short time frame. However, good collaborations can make breakthroughs and let you achieve success.
So, think about how you can make time to open yourself up to the possibility of collaborations. Good luck.