Need Help Promoting Research Collaboration? Three Tips for Establishing New Scientific Partnerships

three chemical engineers collaborate
Preparation can help you land a successful research collaboration.
Image source: Flickr user NTNU, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology

Quality research doesn’t take place in a bubble, under isolation and without input from colleagues. Some of us may not want to believe it, but it is extremely difficult to come up with ideas or solve problems without any outside influence or support. There was a period of time during my graduate training when my boss was preparing for retirement and no other graduate students were entering our lab. We had some part-time technicians, but in general, I was alone in the lab. Sometimes I would get stuck on an idea and just couldn’t get out of my mindset to find another approach on my own. Don’t get me wrong: solitude is great for writing a paper or analyzing data; however, as far as innovation is concerned, personal interaction is a leading driver. I spent a good deal of time in other labs, talking with scientists and picking their brains for ideas and support. Of course, these local collaborations are beneficial, but interdisciplinary relationships can garner even more success. If you struggle with starting new research collaborations, consider these three tips:

Network within your industry (and outside, too)

Every time I attend a scientific or industry meeting, I come back to the lab invigorated and excited to start new projects. This isn’t just a response to getting out of the lab for a few days (though I’m sure it doesn’t hurt). Rather, after talking with other researchers and bouncing ideas off of one another, I always leave with multiple new collaborations and potential projects. You don’t have to be a social butterfly to set up these new research partnerships either. I usually visit posters, attend discussions and presentations and just chat with vendors about their projects. These simple interactions typically end with an exchange of emails or business cards (it’s good to keep plenty on hand). Once I get back to the lab, I follow up with each point of contact and get started setting up new projects.

Present your research

The only way to let others hear about your research is to present it. You can formally present your work in the form of oral presentations, publications or posters, however, these are not the only ways. Informal chats in the elevator at work or an email to another scientist can let others know what you’re working on. When I was still a student, we used to practice a 2-minute elevator pitch that we’d file away in case the opportunity arose.  You never know whom you’ll run into at a restaurant, in the lobby of a hotel or next to you on a plane.

Implement an electronic laboratory notebook

Once you’ve set up a research collaboration, you’ll need an efficient approach in managing all of the information.  An electronic lab notebook (ELN) provides a digital location for all collaborators and contributors to deposit data, review findings and easily communicate in real-time.  You can designate user access based on project so that you can manage multiple collaborations through one system.  Users all over the world can access the ELN through their web browser without facing time zone barriers.  Electronic signatures and digital time/date stamps help secure intellectual property protection.

The Accelrys Notebook provides intuitive features that can help your lab promote research collaboration. Visit the Accelrys website to learn more about our best practice digital solutions for supporting collaborative research.


5 thoughts on “Need Help Promoting Research Collaboration? Three Tips for Establishing New Scientific Partnerships

  1. As a research assistant with laboratory experience, I can definitely agree with this article’s emphasis on the importance of being able to record, share, and access accurate data and collaborative findings. An ELN would be a fantastic way to keep a research project organized so a group would have instant and convenient access to the information they needed whenever they were working!

  2. I can’t second this advice enough. When I first started out, I really thought that I did my best work solo and that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t learn through good old fashioned research. But once I started branching out and attending conventions and the like, I was amazed at how much more effectively ideas began to develop.

  3. Utilizing an Electronic Notebook Network is tremendously useful when collaborating between labs, whether its across the building, the state, the country, or even the world! By establishing secure networks, we can be sure that all of our proprietary information is properly handled in addition to being able to see the work others are doing in other labs in real time. Things like this have never been possible before and I can’t wait to see the implications they have for our work.

  4. It’s great to hear this consensus on promoting research collaboration! The ability to communicate efficiently and share knowledge with collaborators is truly one of the best features of an ELN.

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