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Academic Coaching & Writing

VII. Putting Your Collaboration Into Perspective

Sep 21, 2018 by Claire Renaud

If you have selected a good collaborator, planned well, and managed the challenges that inevitably arise, it’s likely that you will have a successful collaboration. There are several things to keep in mind as you are actively collaborating on your project. And as the project nears completion, you will need to begin thinking about what’s next.

Check in With Your Career Goals

Don't lose sight of your academic priorities. During the collaboration itself, you will want to make sure that you establish your priorities and think about your other projects as well. How will each project count towards your tenure and/or promotion? If a solo project counts more, you may want to prioritize a solo project over the collaborative project. However, if a co-authored paper counts as much as a solo-authored paper, then you may prioritize things differently. In other words, you should look at the amount of time and commitment you have to invest in all your projects and prioritize them according to your long-term career goals, as well as how you will be viewed and evaluated for tenure and/or promotion.

Utilize your time wisely. What if you have many projects to work on at the same time? Managing your workload can be tricky at times, and this is why having a plan is always helpful. However, there is an additional aspect to managing the workload when taking part in a collaboration. Remember that in a collaboration, you are working with your collaborator’s other priorities and timelines as well as your own. So, despite a clear timeline, reasonable goals, and excellent communication, you may find yourself without anything to do while you are waiting on your collaborator. This would probably be a good time to shift your focus to your other projects. And if you don’t have other projects to work on, perhaps you might use this time to brainstorm ideas for a new project. Don’t wait on your collaborator. And certainly don’t give up your valuable research or writing time to work on things that are not priorities for your advancement. Avoid procrastination by moving other projects forward.

Evaluate the collaboration. When a collaboration comes to an end, use this opportunity to reflect on your research agenda and to consider next steps. How valuable was this collaboration and would you consider continuing with this collaborator or initiating a new collaboration? Here are a few questions to help you evaluate the collaboration and move forward:

  • What do you need to do next to advance your research agenda?
  • Does it make sense to continue this collaboration or is your research program moving in a different direction?
  • Could you continue this collaboration with an expansion of the same project or is there a logical next step?  For example, if you worked on a joint presentation, would it be worthwhile to turn it into a publishable journal article?
  • If you decide to continue the collaboration, do you need to renegotiate the roles and expectations? Or the day-to-day structures you used?
  • Are there some things that didn’t work as well as you had hoped during this collaboration? What could you do differently next time?
  • Can you continue to give the same amount of time and effort to the collaboration or do you need to adjust this? If you need to adjust your commitment, what does this mean for your collaborator?

If this has been or will be your first collaboration, it is important to review what you learn from this experience to guide you in future collaborations. Perhaps the advice in these blogs—from deciding whether collaboration fits within your career goals, to selecting the right collaborator, to specifying the terms of your collaboration—has helped you decide to try working with a collaborator and has helped you set up and manage the collaboration. Ultimately, you will need to decide how each collaboration advances your research agenda and career goals and how much effort to devote to it, given your multiple projects and efforts and your own personal priorities.

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