Collaborative working

From The Embassy of Good Science

Collaborative working

What is this about?

Collaborative working is "the act of two or more people or organizations working together for a particular purpose". [1] Collaborative working can cover formal or informal ways to work together. Formal collaborations include research projects under specified research grants, informal collaborations include, for example, networks or alliances.[2] Collaborations can be permanent or last for a certain time period. Important for succesfull research collaborations is having good underlying principles providing the basis for agreements of collaborations.

Why is this important?

A lot of scientific work happens through collaboration. Yet, collaborations can also lead to conflict when there is lack of clarity about the roles of different collaborators, or when expectations are not met.

Collaborative work has become more important over the past few decades, partially due to the rise of interdisciplinary research. The number of co-authors on a paper is a potential indifcatar for the rise of collaborations, with the average number of co-authors on research papers for the PNAS rose from 3.9 in 1981 to 8.4 in 2001. [1]

  1. Vicens, Quentin, and Philip E. Bourne. 2007. “Ten Simple Rules for a Successful Collaboration.” PLOS Computational Biology 3 (3): e44 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030044.

For whom is this important?

What are the best practices?

The European Code of Conduct[1] states that good research practice with regard to collaborations are based on the following principles:

  • "All partners in research collaborations take responsibility for the integrity of the research.
  • All partners in research collaborations agree at the outset on the goals of the research and on the process for communicating their research as transparently and openly as possible.
  •  All partners formally agree at the start of their collaboration on expectations and standards concerning research integrity, on the laws and regulations that will apply, on protection of the intellectual property of collaborators, and on procedures for handling conflicts and possible cases of misconduct.
  • All partners in research collaborations are properly informed and consulted about submissions for publication of the research results. "(ECC 2017, section 2.6)

Vicens and Bourne (2007) suggest the following rules[2]:

  1. Do Not Be Lured into Just Any Collaboration
  2. Decide at the Beginning Who Will Work on What Tasks
  3. Stick to Your Tasks
  4. Be Open and Honest
  5. Feel Respect, Get Respect
  6. Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate
  7. Protect Yourself from a Collaboration That Turns Sour
  8. Always Acknowledge and Cite Your Collaborators
  9. Seek Advice from Experienced Scientists
  10. If Your Collaboration Satisfies You, Keep It Going
  1. European Science Foundation, All European Academies. The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. 2017.
  2. Vicens, Quentin, and Philip E. Bourne. 2007. “Ten Simple Rules for a Successful Collaboration.” PLOS Computational Biology 3 (3): e44 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030044.

Other information

Virtues & Values
Good Practices & Misconduct