Research is increasingly becoming a collaborative affair. After all collaboration is at the heart of innovation. This offers significant opportunities for researchers and clinicians who wish to pool their resources and expand professional networks. Published papers resulting from international collaboration often appear in higher-impact journals and are cited more frequently than papers that are the outcome of local research.
However, collaboration can present unique challenges given the differences in research norms, rules and regulations across disciplines and institutions. But what does this actually mean for the frontline researcher? We have put together 6 key practical tips for establishing and maintaining successful research collaborations.
6 tips for successful research collaborations
1. Get your platforms sorted
Effective communication throughout the life of the project is essential. Tools, such as Dropbox, allow researchers to share files quickly and easily in real-time. Don’t forget to refer to your department, hospital, or centre data management policy to ensure that your data is secure.
2. Determine authorship from the start
It is important to discuss authorship at the very beginning and periodically review this throughout the project. The Australian Code for Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code) recommends discussing who will be listed as an author on potential research outputs, the order in which the authors will be listed, and the responsibilities of each author. Where research is published, developing a signed written statement of authorship is recommended.
3. Clearly define each researchers role
Effective collaboration begins with a clear understanding of the roles, responsibilities and expectations of each party. Have an upfront discussion about your mutual expectations of what the work will be about, who will do what, and how. You need to be clear about what skills you're bringing to the collaboration and what skills you think other people are going to provide. Consider the educational backgrounds and distinct skill sets of each researcher, along with available resources. All key discussions should be documented in meeting minutes, and circulated afterwards to collaborators.
4. Develop a research timeline
Good time management is essential. Set research timelines and stick to them. A good collaborator learns to be realistic about what he or she can deliver. Don’t overcommit yourself. Assign responsibilities to each member, including an outline of what is expected of each member and by when. Regularly check on progress against agreed deliverables from each party. A leader(s) may be nominated for different aspects of the project to oversee progress and address problems if they arise.
5. Schedule regular meetings in advance
Often multi-site collaborations rely upon virtual meetings (e.g., teleconference, email, or telephone). Regular meetings provide an excellent strategy for developing a sense of collegiality, provide motivation and create accountability. Schedule your regular research meetings at the beginning of the collaboration (e.g., the second Monday of every month at a set time). Generate and share meeting notes with all collaborators. Avoid cancelling meetings when attendance is low. A meeting with a small attendance rates can still produce positive results and reinforce project progress.
Regular meetings provide an excellent strategy for developing a sense of collegiality, provide motivation and create accountability.
6. Establish secure data storage protocols
Discussions regarding collection of data, sharing of data, and communicating results should occur early on in the project and regularly reviewed to ensure data integrity.
The success of many research projects hinges on effective collaboration. Happy collaborating!
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