For many postgraduate students, and even early career researchers (ECR’s), collaborative research can seem as though it is a magic trick that everyone else knows, but no-one has bothered to show you. At least that’s how I felt at the start of my PhD. If only someone could de-mystify this process…
The first step is finding a suitable collaborator(s). This is where piirus.ac.uk 1 comes in. Simply join (it’s free), search for someone you want to collaborate with (piirus.ac.uk will make suggestions anyway), and send them a message through piirus.ac.uk. After that, you can use email, Skype, Facebook, Google+ or whatever tool you choose to keep in touch!
- A staggering 91% of researchers agree that collaboration increases research impact
- 94% of researchers are interested in interdisciplinary collaboration
- 72% have achieved success through an interdisciplinary project
The take-away message about collaboration is that the overwhelming majority of academics are really interested in working with other people.
There are certainly a lot of reasons why you should build research relationships and academically collaborate, below are my top five.
- Share the love
At the risk of being told that I need to get out more, I would suggest that there are few things better than connecting with someone who has a similar level of passion and enthusiasm for a given topic to you. I appreciate that that there may be some better things in life (if you really search…) but for an academic this can be pretty special.
- Share the load
One of the best things about an academic collaboration, in my opinion, is knowing that you don’t have to do everything alone. Someone has your back. In most collaborations, there is some kind of divvying up of tasks. You might suck at statistics for example; maybe this is something that one of your collaboration partners can take the lead on. Very few people are accomplished experts in every single area of research.
Maybe you don’t need someone else’s strengths, but having collaboration partners allows for you to get the same results for less investment on your part. You can literally share the load which might enable you to get some of your other work done, like teaching, grant applications and professional development!
- Divide and conquer
This follows on from the previous point. It is entirely reasonable to assume that other people may have access to different resources than you. You can’t build a house with just a hammer, but if you work with other people that have different tools, together you can get the job done. In addition to having specialist expertise or understanding, researchers may differ in how readily they can access various tools, data or samples.
Research can be daunting at the best of times. Sometimes it can be hard to know if you’re ‘doing it properly’. It can be really good to get the honest perspective of someone else. If they are closely attached to the project and have a vested interest in its success, they probably won’t have a problem offering honest critical feedback. Assuming you do the same, you will both learn and grow and the project will almost certainly be stronger than if just one of you was doing it alone. Additionally, the contribution to the existing body of knowledge that the project makes will necessarily be greater.
Most people would agree that in terms of success in most pursuits, networking lies somewhere in between ‘notably important’ and ‘absolutely critical’. The benefits of academic collaboration go far beyond your current project. Academic collaboration is, in essence, a way to build or strengthen a professional relationship. The connections you make and relationships you forge now may very well lead to future collaborative, publishing or employment opportunities.
Piirus is a non-profit service that connects academic researchers with other academic researchers for the purposes of interdisciplinary collaboration. Just sign up for a FREE account, search for an academic collaborator(s), and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Footnote 2: Note that you can take part piirus.ac.uk’s latest survey, on academic career breaks here – open until Friday 18th March 2016 at 17.00 GMT
Image copyright: By Eric Bailey [CC-O], via Pexels.