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Rehab for (recovering) academics.
why and how to collaborate? HELP 
4th-Jun-2014 04:20 pm
Hi All. I have a new, permanent post at a university, and I'm confused about the process of academia, particularly collaborations. What are collaborations FOR and how do I initiate them and get the most out of them? I'm often at a loss when meeting and talking to people who could be potential collaborators. What to say and what to do as a result? I may well sound clueless. I've got this far through hard work and good luck, but I don't think I can sustain this without playing the game better. I love you all, thankyou.
4th-Jun-2014 03:39 pm (UTC)
I have to confess a bit of amazement that you've made it this far if you're confused about how academia works.

Do you go to conferences and present your research? Talk to people doing related things during the coffee breaks. Do you have an opportunity to apply for grants to fund your research? Find out who else is doing related things and write them an email to see if they're interested in doing something joint. Do you keep up to date on the literature in your field? Find out who's writing on what you're interested in, and send them an email. Do you teach? Get your students involved in your research. Do you have departmental colleagues? Talk to them about what they're doing, and see if there are any interesting connections that can be drawn with what you're doing.
4th-Jun-2014 09:12 pm (UTC)

4th-Jun-2014 09:14 pm (UTC)
Could be someone working in a vocationally-focused area who has lots of professional experience but is relatively new to academia. Where I used to work we had a lot of people in subjects like translation, built environment, health sciences and so on who might come in at a relatively senior level with lots of professional experience but without very much experience in academia beyond their undergraduate education and maybe a one-year masters.

OP, how important collaboration is and what's meant by it will be different depending on what subject you're in and possible what your country's or region's HR policies are like and whether you're in a teaching- or a research-focused institution or position. What it means in a science subject or performing arts or museum studies or industrial design, whether it's critical or an optional extra, whether collaborations tend to be formal or informal - stuff like that is going to vary quite a lot. If you are new-ish to academia, is there is anyone you can ask to be a mentor who can help you map out all the requirements of your role and professional development over the next few years, or direct you to some of the policy sites which you ought to be reading? These are totally reasonable questions to be asking, and you should get some support from your institution!
4th-Jun-2014 10:43 pm (UTC)
I agree with this. Seek out mentors in your field (at your institution AND elsewhere) and ask them about this stuff. Without knowing your field OR institution, it's hard for us to comment; I've never collaborated with anyone in my life, but I work on literature and it's pretty much a solitary pursuit.
4th-Jun-2014 05:03 pm (UTC)
"I love you all, thankyou."

5th-Jun-2014 01:08 pm (UTC)
I am seeking a collaborator right now. Preferred qualifications: ability to decipher what on earth this OP is really asking.
5th-Jun-2014 04:10 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure that professing your love for 4,750 strangers on the Internet is necessarily a viable way of initiating a collaboration, but I haven't been here for ages. Things might've changed. Good luck.
5th-Jun-2014 08:39 pm (UTC)
You should definitely be asking others at your institution - a local collaboration is definitely a good way to ease in and learn to deal with the pitfalls. But you don't want to be your collaborator's RA. Think about what you can offer them and what they can offer you to ensure you end up working on an equal level with them. I'd say hold off for now if you're new, you probably don't know who to trust and who's gonna screw you over right now. Once you've made some friends, then they can give you some advice.

Collaborations are usually to access facilities or knowledge. You need to find out what makes your institution different from others in your area of research - then you'll know what your bargaining chips are.
6th-Jun-2014 04:02 pm (UTC)
What are collaborations for:
1) You don't know everything about everything. Collaborations are the way to fix that, by working with someone who knows something about something you don't know about.
2) You can't write 40 papers in a year as first author. Collaborations are a way to share the workload; in a productive partnership, each of you can churn out your own papers and joint papers and everybody gets more academic credit.

How do you initiate a collaboration? it's like any other non-familial relationship. You have to kiss a lot of frogs. :) Seriously, you need to leverage your own curiosity--how does what they are doing relate to the questions you are asking? Is there a point of commonality that you can both explore, that will lead to something? Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not. And, besides their knowledge and yours and finding a way that it interacts, do your personalities and work styles work well together? Collaborations develop slowly, some look promising but never get off the ground, some take time to get rolling before they produce a few papers and fall apart, and others last for years. It's a crapshoot. Good luck!
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