When the term “research” comes up, you might think of academic fields, such as science, engineering, medicine, and even philosophy. However, a research project can also refer to any type of scholarly work that relies on research as its primary methodology. In other words, all forms of scholarship, from laboratory experiments to historiography, constitute a research project.
Any independent research project requires a significant amount of time and effort. But, while some researchers prefer to go at it alone, collaborative research has reportedly become more prevalent over the past five decades, because it allows you to split the work between multiple people and benefit from different fields of expertise.
So, why should you consider collaboration for research projects?
Let’s take a look at the advantages and challenges of collaborative research, as well as its different classifications. We will also share some expert-recommended tips on how to handle a collaborative research project successfully, like the types of processes which a research collaboration can be enhanced by.
The Challenges of Collaborating on a Research Project
Collaborative research projects may come with many unique advantages, but there are still several issues that researchers must address when attempting to carry one out.
Here are a few challenges that collaborative research projects pose:
Members have different expectations
A research project may have a single theme or objective, but that does not mean that all team members are on the same page about what to expect at the end of it. Each researcher has their own priorities and personal goals. For example, you might believe that the paper will change your career, while others might only have a passing interest in the topic.
If the members of your group study project have contrasting answers to the following questions, then it is likely that their expectations about the research project are different:
- What is the significance or long-term potential of this research?
- What are the professional benefits of this research?
- Does this research have any financial benefits?
- Do I have sufficient time and energy to devote to the project?
- How will this research affect my cohorts or my community?
- Will this research enhance our understanding of a particular field or topic?
Unfortunately, differing expectations can have negative consequences on a research project. For one thing, it may result in miscommunication and misunderstandings. It may also cause an unequal show of commitment, with some members willing to put in extra time and effort while others simply perform the bare minimum.
Members abide by different regulations
In some cases, collaborators on a research project come from different institutions or even different countries. Not only must they navigate cultural differences, but researchers will also have to contend with varying regulations and ethical guidelines.
For example, researchers from the United States adhere to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This legislation acts as the primary regulatory instrument when research projects involve animal subjects. However, its rules may not necessarily apply to researchers from outside the country.
Why Collaborate on a Research Project?
In February 2021, the La Jolla Institute for Immunology Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research (LJI) in California published a research project showing how COVID-19 survivors carried protective immunity against the virus for at least eight months after their initial infection. Led by Alessandro Sette, Shane Crotty, and Daniela Weiskopf, these findings have helped improve our understanding of the pandemic.
This study is not the first collaborative research project conducted this year, nor will it be the last. However, it is proof that working with colleagues can result in studies that significantly contribute to the well-being and advancement of our society.
In line with these benefits, here are a few other reasons why researchers should consider a collaborative research project:
A group study project can maximise impact
Collaborative research projects have more significant outcomes than independent research work. In fact, according to leading educational publisher Springer Nature:
“Research shows a positive correlation between collaborative papers and a high level of citations. For example, in one analysis of 28 million papers from the humanities and the natural, medical, and social sciences published between 1900 and 2011, papers with more authors received more citations, particularly if the authors were from different institutions.”
For example, your research team is composed of individuals from various schools and institutions with access to a wide variety of resources. Not only does this enable you to take a more in-depth look into a particular topic, but it also exposes your work to a broader audience. This, in turn, increases the impact of your project since more people become aware of it.
A group study can enhance a researcher’s network
Networking plays a crucial role in developing careers in industry, and it is just as important in academia. Well-connected researchers and scholars increase their opportunities for grants, publications, awards, and promotions. You might even find yourself becoming acquainted with people who, in the future, turn out to be your research project collaborators or even direct superiors.
A group study can improve a researcher’s skills
Besides networking opportunities, collaborative projects also provide researchers with avenues for personal growth and development. By working with your co-investigators, you can learn new skills and gain a fresh or novel perspective on a specific topic. Your colleagues may even introduce you to other researchers and established experts in the field.
A group study attracts opportunities from non-academic sources
Competition in academia is notoriously fierce due to limited slots in graduate school, journals, faculties, and research project funding. This has become a contentious issue in the field, with some claiming that competitiveness hampers diversity since only those in privileged positions gain access to certain opportunities.
However, collaborative projects expose researchers to opportunities from non-academic sources. In particular, research work bound to affect policies, industries, and the general public attract funding from corporations and other private institutions. According to Springer Nature:
“…some funding bodies now give priority to international and industry-academia collaborations. For example, the EU Commission’s Horizon 2020 program, which offered nearly 80 billion Euros of funding between 2014 and 2020 for research projects tackling societal challenges, prioritized collaborative projects.”
Taking on a collaborative research project may feel daunting, but it is well worth the many opportunities and benefits that it will bring over independent research. However, it is important to note that collaborative research projects do not just happen between individual researchers or two research teams. The next section discusses the different classifications of collaborative research and the unique characteristics of each one.
The Classifications of Collaborative Research
Now that we have gone through the advantages and challenges of collaborative research, let us discuss its various types. Generally, there are six different ways to classify a project handled by a team of individual researchers.
|Collaboration Within the Institution||
|Collaboration With a Private Company||
|Collaboration With an Institution||
|Collaboration With an Institution in Person||
|Collaboration Based on Task Expertise||
|International Research Collaboration||
How to Successfully Collaborate on a Research Project
If you are planning to forgo independent research in favour of a group study or collaborating with others on a particular project, then there are a few things that a research collaboration can be enhanced by. Not only will these tips ensure the project’s success, but they will also help all team members work together more efficiently to achieve common goals.
Draw up a collaboration contract
Whether you are heading your own research team or participating in someone else’s project, it is always a good idea to draw up a formal collaboration contract beforehand. This agreement must clearly outline the project’s timelines, objectives, and methodologies. It should also include each member’s roles and responsibilities and the output’s intellectual property and authorship.
Collaborators need to discuss and agree on all these terms before starting on the actual research project. Doing so minimises the risk of potential misunderstandings and allows each individual to manage their expectations.
A research collaboration can be enhanced by a solid collaboration contract. In fact, many seasoned researchers swear by having one. For instance, John Kao, Chair Professor of Translational Medical Engineering at the University of Hong Kong, says that:
“[A collaboration contract] sounds very dry and impersonal, but it’s a way to show that this is being done professionally and is done with good intention. That transparency really helps to build trust.”
Encourage communication and transparency among all collaborators
Besides successes and milestones, all team members should also share their failures and setbacks. A research collaboration requires open communication channels at all times, keeping everyone up-to-date with the ongoing progress of the project.
Additionally, collaborators should also immediately inform their colleagues of any problems or potential delays. This will enable all team members to adjust their personal schedule or the project’s timeline accordingly.
Collaborators must also disclose the resources they are using or plan to use and all the funding sources they have received. If anyone gains access to another funding stream during the course of the project, then they should inform the rest of their team members immediately. This is vital, since funding is often subject to strict regulations in academia.
Take and distribute minutes of meetings
When holding meetings as a team, it is essential to have every detail documented and distributed to every member, whether they were present or not. The minutes can help resolve any future disagreements that may arise when decisions are being considered or made.
More importantly, recording and distributing the minutes of meetings ensure that all members are on the same page about the discussions that have taken place. They can also refer to their copy if any part of the project is unclear, or if they are unsure of what actions to take next.
How Flowcite Can Enhance a Research Collaboration
As challenging as working in a team may be, researchers can find many advantages to doing so and doing anything to lighten their workload is always welcome.
If you’re feeling concerned about the challenges of a collaborative research project, then you should know that you can resolve most of these issues by using Flowcite.
Flowcite is an online platform that aims to make collaborative research projects easier. It takes care of administrative tasks like proofreading and editing, saving references, and sifting through scientific journals, which allows team members to solely focus on their tasks at hand.
More importantly, it features a collaborative LaTeX text editor, and a Word plugin, so that each collaborator can use their preferred tool without compromising the workflow of their colleagues.
Research collaboration can also be enhanced by Flowcite, thanks to the platform’s many features that help streamline an entire team’s workflow. These include:
- Having the paper reviewed by peers and subject experts
- An integrated bookstore with over nine billion e-books that researchers can automatically add to their citations
- Tools that enable researchers to proofread and critique their colleagues’ work in real-time
Flowcite makes a collaborative research project much easier to execute.
Want to make your next research collaboration simpler and headache-free? Try Flowcite to see how our unique academic software can help.
Content Marketing Strategist
Brittany is a Content Marketing Strategist at Flowcite, and an outstanding academic writing expert. She holds a first-class Honours degree in Literae Humaniores from the University of Oxford and has been certified in Digital Marketing Analytics by the MIT Sloan School of Management.