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Tips on how to choose an incredible scientific collaborator


Photo illustration of a six differently sized spanners surrounding a hex nut

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I’ve spent a considerable period of time on a undertaking that was not enjoyable. I did the vast majority of the work, and it in the end got here to nothing. Discovering nice collaborators, and having the ability to work with them productively, is without doubt one of the most vital predictors of success.

Others’ concepts about what makes the perfect collaborators can be found on-line, however I’ve by no means discovered a instrument that totally captured my experiences with selecting the correct — or fallacious — collaborators.

So, on the idea of others’ ideas and my very own concepts about collaboration (and to keep away from a repeat incidence of the undertaking described above), I developed a framework to information me by deciding on the fitting collaborators and to assist others in the identical predicament.

Three vital traits

Over time, I’ve discovered that the individuals I collaborate with greatest share three traits. A great way to evaluate potential collaborators’ traits is to have a few preliminary conferences earlier than deciding to start out the undertaking. These conferences can be utilized to find out about potential collaborators’ working kinds and ambitions — and to get a way of how effectively you ‘click on’ on a social stage. Normally, this might be sufficient to achieve an concept of how effectively they reside as much as these three core traits.

Enjoyable to work with. On the finish of the day, teachers similar to myself have the uncommon privilege of pursuing tasks that we discover fascinating and that we’re deeply interested by. However even probably the most motivating tasks can turn out to be a dreaded expertise in case you don’t take pleasure in working along with your collaborators. Humour and a light-hearted spirit can remodel even probably the most tedious duties right into a enjoyable day on the workplace or laboratory.

Contributes to work. In the end, your collaborator must contribute — by each placing within the hours and including one thing new and invaluable, similar to being the prime knowledge cruncher or the paper-writing technician.

Has the identical ambition. Analysis is an intentional course of wherein you usually have an preliminary concept of a most well-liked outlet and the scope of the examine. Subsequently, you and your collaborators will want a shared ambition — in any other case, it’d turn out to be a supply of battle down the street. As an example, in case you dream of getting your examine grace the duvet of Nature, and your companion ‘simply’ needs to do a minor guide chapter on the examine, then you definitely’re severely misaligned in your ambitions.

Venn diagram showing different types of people and how they collaborate.

A framework to establish good collaborators.Carsten Lund Pedersen

In fact, troubles usually come when collaborators exhibit some, however not all, of those traits.

As an example, if an individual is enjoyable to work with and has the identical stage of ambition, however doesn’t contribute in a invaluable manner, then they are often seen as ‘likable freeloaders’. That’s, you agree on many issues and revel in working collectively — however your ‘collaborator’ by no means actually provides something to the paper apart from having their identify on it. You possibly can both have a critical discuss with that individual about their work on the undertaking or just preserve a social-only relationship.

I’ve encountered individuals who contributed to a undertaking and shared my ambition, however have been usually not enjoyable to work with — making them a ‘productive annoyance’. They may also help you progress, however they will additionally make you depressing within the course of — and that’s simply not value it. Both keep away from these people fully — or ‘protect’ your self from them by having different, extra enjoyable collaborators on the identical undertaking.

Lastly, it’s also possible to have an individual who’s enjoyable to work with and who contributes to the examine, however you merely don’t have the identical ambition. This ends in ‘misaligned companions’. They’ve each potential of being an incredible collaborator — simply not on this undertaking. You need to as an alternative discover frequent tasks for which you will have the identical stage of ambition.

Tips on how to use the framework

One goal of the framework is to evaluate and choose collaborators. However I discovered this instrument to be extra productive when making use of it to myself.

How are you perceived as a collaborator? The place would your collaborators place you within the three circles?

Once I requested myself this query, it grew to become clear that I’ve at all times sought to contribute to work, and I attempt to have the identical stage of ambition as my collaborators. Nevertheless, I’ve, at occasions, maybe not been probably the most enjoyable to work with, making me a productive annoyance to sure collaborators.

Such an perception is each eye-opening and humbling: it might make you’re feeling uncomfortable, as a result of it doesn’t resonate with the way you wish to see your self. However it may end up in motion in the direction of change. Personally, I’m now extra conscious of how intently associated getting rigorous analysis achieved is to having enjoyable within the course of. So I attempt to make enjoyable a precedence in my tasks.

My core collaborators reside on the intersection of the three circles. They encompass a really small, however extremely valued, group of individuals whom I take pleasure in working with every day. And I strive my greatest to be an incredible collaborator for them — one circle at a time.

That is an article from the Nature Careers Neighborhood, a spot for Nature readers to share their skilled experiences and recommendation. Visitor posts are inspired.


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