The right way to choose an ideal scientific collaborator


Photo illustration of a six differently sized spanners surrounding a hex nut

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I’ve spent a considerable period of time on a undertaking that was not enjoyable. I did the vast majority of the work, and it finally got here to nothing. Discovering nice collaborators, and with the ability to work with them productively, is among the most vital predictors of success.

Others’ concepts about what makes the perfect collaborators can be found on-line, however I’ve by no means discovered a instrument that totally captured my experiences with selecting the correct — or incorrect — collaborators.

So, on the idea of others’ ideas and my very own concepts about collaboration (and to keep away from a repeat incidence of the undertaking described above), I developed a framework to information me by way of choosing the proper collaborators and to assist others in the identical predicament.

Three vital traits

Over time, I’ve discovered that the folks I collaborate with greatest share three traits. A great way to evaluate potential collaborators’ traits is to have a few preliminary conferences earlier than deciding to begin the undertaking. These conferences can be utilized to study potential collaborators’ working types and ambitions — and to get a way of how properly you ‘click on’ on a social stage. Normally, this will probably be sufficient to realize an concept of how properly they reside as much as these three core traits.

Enjoyable to work with. On the finish of the day, teachers equivalent to myself have the uncommon privilege of pursuing initiatives that we discover attention-grabbing and that we’re deeply interested in. However even essentially the most motivating initiatives can turn out to be a dreaded expertise when you don’t get pleasure from working along with your collaborators. Humour and a light-hearted spirit can remodel even essentially the most tedious duties right into a enjoyable day on the workplace or laboratory.

Contributes to work. Finally, your collaborator must contribute — by each placing within the hours and including one thing new and worthwhile, equivalent to being the prime information cruncher or the paper-writing technician.

Has the identical ambition. Analysis is an intentional course of during which you usually have an preliminary concept of a most well-liked outlet and the scope of the research. Subsequently, you and your collaborators will want a shared ambition — in any other case, it’d turn out to be a supply of battle down the street. As an illustration, when you dream of getting your research grace the duvet of Nature, and your associate ‘simply’ desires to do a minor e-book chapter on the research, then you definately’re severely misaligned in your ambitions.

Venn diagram showing different types of people and how they collaborate.

A framework to determine good collaborators.Carsten Lund Pedersen

After all, troubles usually come when collaborators exhibit some, however not all, of those traits.

As an illustration, if an individual is enjoyable to work with and has the identical stage of ambition, however doesn’t contribute in a worthwhile method, then they are often seen as ‘likable freeloaders’. That’s, you agree on many issues and revel in working collectively — however your ‘collaborator’ by no means actually provides something to the paper aside from having their identify on it. You may both have a critical speak with that particular person about their work on the undertaking or just preserve a social-only relationship.

I’ve encountered individuals who contributed to a undertaking and shared my ambition, however have been typically not enjoyable to work with — making them a ‘productive annoyance’. They may also help you progress, however they will additionally make you depressing within the course of — and that’s simply not value it. Both keep away from these people fully — or ‘protect’ your self from them by having different, extra enjoyable collaborators on the identical undertaking.

Lastly, you can too have an individual who’s enjoyable to work with and who contributes to the research, however you merely don’t have the identical ambition. This ends in ‘misaligned companions’. They’ve each potential of being an ideal collaborator — simply not on this undertaking. It’s best to as an alternative discover frequent initiatives for which you might have the identical stage of ambition.

The right way to use the framework

One goal of the framework is to evaluate and choose collaborators. However I discovered this instrument to be extra productive when making use of it to myself.

How are you perceived as a collaborator? The place would your collaborators place you within the three circles?

Once I requested myself this query, it turned clear that I’ve all the time sought to contribute to work, and I attempt to have the identical stage of ambition as my collaborators. Nevertheless, I’ve, at occasions, maybe not been essentially the most enjoyable to work with, making me a productive annoyance to sure collaborators.

Such an perception is each eye-opening and humbling: it may well make you’re feeling uncomfortable, as a result of it doesn’t resonate with the way you wish to see your self. But it surely may end up in motion in the direction of change. Personally, I’m now extra conscious of how carefully associated getting rigorous analysis carried out is to having enjoyable within the course of. So I attempt to make enjoyable a precedence in my initiatives.

My core collaborators reside on the intersection of the three circles. They encompass a really small, however extremely valued, group of individuals whom I get pleasure from working with every day. And I attempt my greatest to be an ideal collaborator for them — one circle at a time.

That is an article from the Nature Careers Neighborhood, a spot for Nature readers to share their skilled experiences and recommendation. Visitor posts are inspired.


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