Roles and relationships
ORI Introduction to RCR: Chapter 8. Collaborative Research
Effective collaboration begins with a clear understanding of roles and relationships, which should begin the day the collaboration is established by discussing and reaching agreement on the details of the collaborative relations. Before any work is undertaken, there should be some common understanding of:
- the goals of the project and anticipated outcomes;
- the role each partner in the collaboration will play;
- how data will be collected, stored, and shared;
- how changes in the research design will be made;
- who will be responsible for drafting publications;
- the criteria that will be used to identify and rank contributing authors;
- who will be responsible for submitting reports and meeting other requirements;
- who will be responsible for or have the authority to speak publicly for the collaboration;
- how intellectual property rights and ownership issues will be resolved; and
- how the collaboration can be changed and when it will come to an end.
Clear understandings in advance are the best way to avoid complications and disagreements later in a collaboration.
Obviously, situations can arise during a collaboration that could not have been anticipated in advance. For this reason, it is important for effective communication to continue throughout any collaborative project. Collaborators should:
- share findings with colleagues in the collaboration and pay attention to what others are doing;
- report and discuss problems as well as findings;
- make other collaborators aware of any important changes, such as changes in key personnel; and
- share related news and developments so that everyone in the collaboration is equally knowledgeable about important information.
All of these points may seem obvious, but they can easily get lost in the day-to-day details of doing research. However, if you are working with collaborators, keep in touch. Without effective communication, collaborations can easily run into problems and dissolve.