Researchers are constantly working to push the boundaries of human knowledge. While they may find success through solo work, many academic breakthroughs and innovations have come from collaborations and information sharing with teams across the world who come from different backgrounds and work together in their research.
That’s why collaborative research is one of the most innovative and effective ways to solve complex scientific issues.
When a diverse group of researchers comes together, they can create solutions that would not have been possible otherwise. The information sharing process between different collaborators can result in the discovery of new medical breakthroughs, forgotten ancient wisdom, or even new galaxies.
An example of a phenomenal discovery that resulted from collaborative research was the discovery of insulin. In 1921, four individuals—a surgeon, a professor, a research student, and a biochemist—worked together to find the cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Until today, this development continues to help save humans with Diabetes.
If you want to collaborate with your academic peers to research your next world-changing discovery, there are some best practices you can use to make sure the research process runs as smoothly as possible.
Let’s take a look at some strategies for effective research collaboration and how they can help your team publish your findings faster and easier.
Pros and Cons of Collaborative Research
Collaboration is vital in so many areas—in the workplace, within communities, between organisations, and even in the research process. Working with others open new lines of communication, allowing you to learn about issues from multiple perspectives, and help solve problems in novel ways.
But like any other research, collaborative research has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of its pros and cons:
Research shows that working with others on the same task increases efficiency and accuracy. Some of these benefits include:
- Research collaborations encourage information sharing among researchers with different backgrounds tackling the same issue. The researchers’ varied skills and techniques bring ideas to the group that can help them further improve and understand their research.
- With collaborative research, investigators optimise the use of funding and time. As researchers work simultaneously from anywhere across the world, it is faster to arrive at a conclusion that is powerful and relevant.
- Research with more authors gives more societal impact with its heightened credibility, especially when the collaborators come from different institutions.
If research collaboration has these advantages, how come academics don’t do it more often?
For some researchers, it may be challenging to find others they can work with harmoniously and can complement their technique and styles. Here’s an example of some of the issues you could face when working in a collaborative research process:
- With several researchers working on different topics, it can be challenging to keep track of progress and prevent different people from duplicating each other’s work (which can waste unnecessary time and limit productivity). This can lead to chaotic situations where conflicts and issues arise, such as authorship and credibility. Additionally, keeping tabs on sources or references can be time-consuming.
- Collaborating with others can mean that it will be challenging to keep moving forward efficiently. In collaborative research, there is a tendency to depend on your partners to respond, read, and edit promptly. It takes more time to organise and consolidate all these changes, so you might not be able to maximise your productivity.
- It can be hard to find a platform where all researchers can work together while holding each one accountable for the writings they’ve done. In collaborative research, you may be writing using different text editors or copy-pasting work from multiple documents to create the finished product. This can lead to formatting errors that eat up time to correct, and makes it difficult to keep track of the work that everyone is doing independently until you’ve combined all the outputs in one document.
Despite these cons, working with other academics helps you reach breakthroughs that might have taken longer if you worked alone. For collaborative research to become productive, empowering each researcher is necessary through effective and heightened information sharing during the research process.
We talk more below about some tools you can use to overcome these challenges and make your research collaboration as smooth and streamlined as possible.
Best Practices for Collaboration in Academic Research
In the world of academia, there is a pervasive need for collaboration. The merging of different fields of research by information sharing and providing a solution or deepened understanding on a specific issue make the impossible goals achievable.
Looking at an issue from different perspectives will create resolutions that will be hard to squeeze out when working alone.
During the global lockdowns caused by COVID-19, individuals, including researchers, were forced to isolate themselves from one another. The usual brainstorming with your academic peers over coffee at a nearby coffee shop was no longer possible. But, while the pandemic may have made in-person research collaborations more difficult, it also opened up opportunities for researchers from all over the world to work together in new ways.
In addition to using video calls and digital tools that let researchers work together remotely, like programs for editing pdf files online, there are also purpose-built platforms that now help academics collaborate easily on shared documents. Tools like Flowcite allow you to share sources, annotations, citations, and editable documents in real-time with your peers, all over the world, all within a single browser window.
But how can researchers leverage tools like these to work together efficiently?
Here are three things that you can do to help you collaborate with your academic peers successfully in the digital age:
Discuss Data Expectations
With all research, may it be academic, scientific, individual, or collaborative, researchers should have a concrete project plan to determine the short- and long-term goals of the research. A project plan provides the researchers with a direction and identifies their agreed specific roles within the research process.
As a researcher, you should have a clear understanding of your tasks in collaborative research to heighten your interest and increase your motivation. Having a clearly defined task for each researcher will prevent you wasting time on duplicate efforts, and maximise your shared resources and expertise to enhance your work’s credibility overall.
Project plans help create tangible goals by going through all of the projects and allows researchers to share information on what they want to achieve with the research.
As collaborative research involves collaborators coming from different fields of expertise, you must have a good understanding of how much time is needed to achieve your desired results. Discussing and explaining the research process for each sub-project of the research will allow collaborators to set a realistic timeline and can help hold collaborators accountable.
One way of doing this is to use Gantt charts to map out the goals of your research, the activities required for achieving them, and the people responsible for each one.
Establish Good Communication Strategy
Once the roles and deliverables are assigned and written for each researcher, how can you make sure that each collaborator is following the tasks and timeline you established?
Communication is one of the most important things to consider when working with different researchers. Establish a communication strategy where all can easily understand and work on the same page. With a good communication strategy, information sharing can be seamless, as collaborators build trust with one another.
Keeping lines open for communication is vital during the research process to keep track of everyone and their progress. In collaborative research, the ‘no news is good news’ approach should be avoided at all costs.
Collaborators should constantly share information and stay abreast of each other’s progress during the research process so no one is lost and no time and effort go to waste. This is where collaborative research tools, like cloud-based text editors, will help teams the most. The best text editors let you share documents and research notes in real-time, so everyone always has full visibility on each other’s work.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
When working with other people, it is also almost inevitable to feel that you are doing more work than others on your team (especially if you’re somewhat of an overachiever yourself). Whether this is true or not, it’s important to remember that the contributions of every individual matter when it comes to producing group research.
The topic of authorship, in particular, can cause some disputes regarding who had the most significant input to your paper.
But deciding whose name comes first when you publish isn’t the only issue. Each collaborator makes their own important contribution to the research process, which is why every researcher should be recognised for their strengths.
This is important if you want to prevent conflicts when individuals feel that their efforts are unappreciated, and it also helps keep your research team motivated.
How Flowcite Helps in Collaboration in Academic Research
At Flowcite, we are dedicated to making your research process easier, so you won’t have to spend the bulk of your time doing tedious things such as:
- Proofreading and editing
- Reading through journals to find relevant source material
- Looking for software for editing PDF files
- Saving and citing references
- Formatting your paper
- Figuring out the best text editor to use for collaborating with your peers
We can help you simplify and streamline all these processes through our fully integrated academic writing platform, which offers every researcher (academics and students alike) the services that they need to produce professional-quality papers.
Flowcite is the only online tool specifically designed for academic researchers that combines all of the features you need to collaborate with your peers faster and easier, including:
- Journal libraries and an AI-driven article summariser (powered by Scholarcy)
- Writing with LaTeX or Word editors
- Citing sources automatically
With Flowcite, it’s easier to collaborate with experts or other researchers. For example, our LaTeX and Word Text editors are fully interchangeable. This empowers each researcher to use their preferred best text editor while maintaining compatibility with other text editors (so your formatting won’t be affected when a colleague needs to convert it to another text editor).
Our in-built text editors also allow you to automatically save citations or references to your paper, with over 7,000 citation styles available. It helps reduce the time spent duplicating your paper in another format when submitting to various journals, as our citation generator feature allows you to change to another citation style with just the click of a button.
Our collaboration tools allow you to comment, share, proofread, and critique your colleagues or fellow students’ papers in real-time. Your research team can also create unlimited projects and files with Flowcite, so there’s no limit to the amount of collaborative research you can produce.
On top of that, you can also avail of the following services that can help streamline your collaborative research:
- Professional proofreading and editing services to prepare your paper for publishing
- Have your paper reviewed by peers and subject-experts, then use our journal matchmaking service to find the perfect publisher
- Integrated bookstore with over 9 million ebooks that you can automatically add to your citations
All of these tools will help you conduct collaborative research with less time spent on proofreading, editing, citing, generating bibliographies, and everything in your research process that just takes time away from the core of your research.
Collaboration in academic research is an opportunity for researchers to build meaningful relationships, which will, in turn, create legacies and powerful discoveries.
Researchers should foster a spirit of cooperation to complement each other’s work to achieve their short- and long-term goals. The merging of different fields of studies can speed up achieving results that have high societal impact, relevance, and credibility, but researchers shouldn’t have their collaborations hindered by slow or outdated information sharing methods.
Even when you’re working with other academics on the other side of the world, you can still collaborate on research projects together smoothly, as long as you use the right tools and strategies.
Want to make your next research collaboration simpler and more straightforward? 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.