Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.
I’ve written before about the increasingly collaborative nature of modern scientific research. Unfortunately, a new survey highlights the paucity of collaborative skills within academia, and underlines how this lack of skills is undermining attempts to collaborate effectively.
The findings emerged from a survey of over 600 academics and researchers across the physical, natural and social sciences. The academics revealed that they didn’t think they had the skills required to collaborate effectively with their peers. Indeed, just 20% said they had received training on collaborative research, despite the growing importance of it.
To collaborate effectively across labs, countries and even continents requires a unique set of skills, and often individuals or even entire labs lack these skills. With collaborative research typically of higher quality and more frequently cited however, it’s vital for researchers to master this skill.
“It is especially important for early-career researchers to feel confident working on collaborative research projects because these may open doors to a wide range of future projects, or even last an entire career,” the researchers explain. “One step we can take to ensure that academics are equipped for collaborative research is to offer suitable training on the skills collaboration requires, like teamwork, project and people management, communication across cultures and disciplines, big data management, administrative and negotiation skills.”
I’ve written previously about the growing importance of collaboration for academic research, with studies showing that researchers who collaborate on papers with peers tend to produce higher quality work that receives more citations than their peers.
The latest evidence of this comes from a new paper1 from researchers at the University of Maryland, which shows that citations are boosted by having more than one author, with those authors being from multiple institutions, especially if those institutions are from a number of different countries, and if they include participants from industry or government.
The research suggests that the best approach is for teams to pursue the goal of generating breakthrough research and solutions to real human problems simultaneously in an approach the researchers refer to as the ‘Twin-Win Model’. The model was found to produce papers with roughly 7x the number of citations of papers produced with a single author.
Collaborating for the win
The paper also highlights how beneficial it can be to pull in expertise from the commercial world. The data showed that including corporate researchers in academic work resulted in roughly twice the number of citations for that paper than when the paper had just academic, or indeed just corporate authors.
“It makes sense that when experts from different societal sectors partner deeply, their combined expertise can produce more ideas and better research outcomes. This view has motivated the formation of the Highly Integrative Basic and Responsive (HIBAR) Research Alliance, including the University of Maryland, the University of British Columbia, and others, with the goal of helping all universities advance this work,” the researchers explain.
What’s more, the authors believe that this finding builds upon previous work that also highlighted the benefits of taking a collaborative and open approach to research.
“This study found that patents often cited academic papers, but more importantly, academic papers that are cited by patents get greater attention in the research community,” they explain.
It all highlights the importance of not only collaborating widely within the academic community, but also bringing in insights from government and business to address real world problems. What’s more, these partners can also bring in vital resources, whether money, staff or data, that would not have been available in the academic community. It seems that we just need to give researchers better skills to do this.
Article source: The Need For Academics To Develop Collaborative Skills.
- Shneiderman, B. (2018). Twin-Win Model: A human-centered approach to research success. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(50), 12590-12594. ↩