No stranger to what great collaboration can do, Henry Ford, an American industrialist and the founder of Ford Motor Company once said, ‘If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.’
He believed that if a group operated like a well-oiled machine, then progress and success were inevitable. Being a man whose business revolved around automobiles, his sentiments are fitting.
Throughout history, many of humanity’s most extraordinary achievements were only possible due to collaboration. From the team at NASA landing us on the moon to the ancient pyramids built under the directions of ancient pharaohs and mathematicians.
However, the reality of working together has changed, especially in recent years. Because of the global pandemic, teams of researchers can no longer work in the same physical space. And when they do—they are extremely limited.
Despite the difficulties, scientists across the globe persisted with the help of modern technology.
Upon hearing the words ‘group study’, what may come to mind is an image of students working together in a university library. But since the pandemic started, universities and schools alike have either dismissed physical classes or had to implement social distancing measures. Nowadays, group study and research often take place online. Even though the way we work together changed, people still manage to achieve great things.
A notable example of an achievement done through a lot of remote collaborative research is the Covid-19 vaccine. Despite the heavy limitations in place, vaccine developers managed to coordinate with their teams to produce the groundbreaking mRNA vaccines.
It goes to show that with modern technology, communication, and organization, people can work together to achieve great things—even if that’s remote.
Tips for Collaborating Remotely
Remote collaborative research has become the primary way researchers, academics and scientists are required to work together now. For those who aren’t able to get work done in the lab, thankfully there are workarounds. While using remote tools to conduct some types of research is incredibly difficult, there are ways to make it work.
To improve your workflow with your remote team members, here are 4 tips you can use to optimize remote collaborative research.
1. Work on Communication
Communication is vital—especially when you can’t be in the same room. Here are some ways to create a clear set of expectations for your research project:
Face-to-face Communication. There are several benefits of face-to-face communication. First, it helps cultivate better relationships with your group mates. Second, it’s more engaging and promotes a better flow of ideas for brainstorming. Third, it’s clear and concise compared to sending text back and forth. Lastly, it’s far more efficient and quicker when you need to discuss a topic more extensively.
Face-to-face communication traditionally meant speaking to others in person. However, using online video call applications as an alternative still provides similar benefits.
Set Up Communication Channels. Having designated channels for communication can keep things organized and promote better communication. For example, using messaging services, like Slack, gives you different channels to separate your conversations. This is useful when looking through messages, finding specific bits of information.
More so, it helps the flow of different types of conversation. You can set up channels for brainstorming, scheduling, technical issues, feedback, and so on. By having everyone communicate in one place, your research collaboration can run much more smoothly. Setting up communication channels can make your team easily accessible, as well as organize different ideas.
Promote Open Communication. As Schiller and Cui documented in their study, open communication results in better progress. When members feel like they can openly discuss things with one another, they can work through obstacles better. Whether it’s remote or in person, being able to communicate well with your group members is necessary.
More so, having a sense of openness with your group promotes higher quality collaboration. As a result of communicating openly, all sorts of ideas flow through. Members can openly share their thoughts and insights, which can improve the quality of research.
Regular Check-Ups. Checking in on your research collaborators is crucial in maintaining a steady flow of progress. Check-ups are also an opportunity to raise any present concerns. Also, it can identify which parts of the research are falling behind so the group can divert their focus on what needs it.
If certain members are stressed or exhausted, encourage them to take a break. After all, they won’t produce quality work if they aren’t in a state to work. Apart from the progress of the research, the well-being of your group members is also a priority.
2. Establish Schedules
Breakdown Tasks. Before you start making a schedule, you have to identify the tasks at hand. Research collaboration can be enhanced by breaking big tasks into smaller tasks. Breaking big tasks into smaller ones is essential to make it more manageable. It also outlines the step-by-step process of what to do, giving researchers a clearer vision of how they will work.
For example, if the main task is to write the first draft, you break that down into five steps:
- Research literature
- Collate necessary information
- Create an outline
- Fill in the outline
- Write the first draft
With a clear idea of how to go about the task, you can make it easier to do for you and for your team.
Create a Schedule. Once you know what the tasks are, you can put your deadlines into a schedule. Alternatively, you can make a general schedule and promote your team members to make a personal one for themselves. That way, there’s a group schedule and an individual schedule to help keep everyone accountable.
Project Management Applications. If you’re looking to make a schedule that automatically notifies members of what they need to do, you can choose to use project management applications. Asana, for example, lets users make tasks cards. Within these task cards, you can assign subtasks to different members of the group. Also, you can put deadlines on each task card and subtask.
These tools also allow you to automate tasks and schedule systems to keep members on track. With a traditional schedule, people still have to go back to every now and then to see what they need to do. By being notified instead, they don’t have to check regularly.
3. Use the Right Software
Of course, online collaboration isn’t possible unless there’s software that enables groups to work together. Google docs, for example, allows multiple members to work on a single document. However, it’s not the best tool for large documents. But in a pinch, it can help. Plus, it allows you to monitor other members’ work in real-time so you can quickly address if something needs improvement.
Flowcite also has a LaTex editor online which lets people work together at the same time. Plus, it provides grammar and spelling suggestions, and a reference manager. As you collaborate with your group, you can polish your paper and build your references.
Using their LaTex editor online can cut down your editing time and eliminate building your references as a separate task. Instead of using Google docs or other services that lag, make sure you’re using the best software you can.
Work Collaboratively with Flowcite
Whether collaborative research is done in person or remotely, it doesn’t change the fact that people can accomplish amazing things by working together. And if you optimize the way you collaborate—you can accomplish even more.
With Flowcite, you can work together with your group to create groundbreaking research. Our LaTex editor online helps you fine-tune your paper as you collaborate. It provides hundreds of research templates and can help you manage your citations with over 7000 citation styles. So you can focus more on the research and less on the formatting.
Working smart means working efficiently, while producing excellent results. With these tips, you can expect to save time, get more done, and produce great research.
Let us help you work better to make groundbreaking research.
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.