Collaborations between scientists have become integral to speeding up research progress and making more discoveries in shorter time periods. Bringing several researchers together offers the exciting prospect of testing a hypothesis using diverse techniques. Also, confirmation of a theory by researchers in different laboratories provides extra proof toward the validity of a conclusion. Herein I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a scientific collaboration.
- Scientific collaborations can bring researchers with different backgrounds together to solve a scientific problem. This involves varied skill sets, diverse research techniques, and individuals with unique problem-solving capabilities. Most importantly, it allows the researchers to communicate with each other about their respective science topics and to understand other research areas that might help their own research.
- Putting multiple scientific minds together helps confirm validity and accuracy of every scientific experiment and its interpretation. All the researchers involved scrutinize every conclusion carefully and everyone has to be convinced by the discoveries. Controversial results or data can be reproduced by more than one laboratory and discussed. This can also help verify the data.
- The use of time and funding money can be significantly optimized by collaborations. Top-notch journals often require results to be confirmed by multiple technique and collaborations can significantly reduce the time needed to conduct the experiments quickly. Recently many drug industries, pharmaceutical companies and researchers have come together to aid in rapid transition of discoveries from the research bench to hospital clinics. This will speed up the process of drug discovery and provide faster disease cures.
- Collaborations also promote shared scientific credits. Multiple authors are given primary authorship or senior authorship in research articles. Such collaborations may lead to publication in high-profile research journals.
- As in every relationship, collaborations can be tricky when there are disagreements between researchers on the experiments to perform or the results obtained. Communication between the scientists and a healthy discussion can help solve all problems professionally.
- Authorship in collaborations is often a sore point. Researchers don’t want to give up the scientific credit in research articles, as that is integral to their scientific career and their research funding. Early in the collaboration it is important to talk about the order of author names when the study is published. Senior authors have to be in agreement on who will be the corresponding authors and who holds primary responsibility for the research findings.
- Sometimes collaborations can take much longer than anticipated. Graduate students or postdoctoral researchers who are the first author on a project can be confused by ideas from collaborators and spend time on tangential yet interesting projects that may not help with the primary project. This can delay the research progress. It is important for the senior author to completely control the direction of a project and provide intellectual expertise that will help focus all efforts on the primary research question.
In summary, collaborations are a wonderful opportunity to build long-lasting scientific relationships that are mutually beneficial to everyone. Every collaboration is unique but with multiple experienced researchers on board, planning, and open communication, collaborative experiments can lead to powerful discoveries.
About the Author:
Sushama is doing her postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Hongtao Yu at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas TX. She obtained her PhD from the laboratory of Dr. Gary J Gorbsky at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), Oklahoma city, OK. She is interested in understanding the mechanisms that regulate mitotic progression in mammalian cell lines. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.
John Fleischman was the ASCB Senior Science Writer from 2000 to 2016. Best unpaid perk of the job? Working with new grad students and Nobel Prize winners.