Building Successful Collaborations

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I’ve just returned from the most recent ‘In Conversation with…’ event on the theme of ‘Building Successful Collaborations’ and wanted to write something about it.

The speakers were Dr Judith Rankin, Reader in Maternal and Perinatal Epidemiology in the Institute of Health and Society who also holds a NIHR Personal Fellowship and Paul Watson who is Professor of Computer Science, Director of the Digital Institute, and Director of the North East Regional e-Science Centre.

We learnt how two years ago, Paul had pulled twelve distinct schools together to form the £12M UKRC Digital Economy Hub on “Inclusion through the Digital Economy”. Of course, he is a professor – you wouldn’t be expected to do that just yet – but he does know a thing or two about collaborating effectively!

He highlighted the importance of starting out with a good sense of what it is you are trying to achieve. Then you can identify how to move forward – recognising what skills you need and who might have them. Each person involved should be clear about what they want to get from it – be that the knowledge and skills of others, new skills of your own or an opportunity for professional development and promotion.

Another key thing was being prepared to put some time into understanding other disciplines – how they work and what is important to them. To demonstrate this he highlighted how in his discipline there isn’t much emphasis placed on where your name appears on a paper!

Judith started by asking for a definition of collaboration – “working with others to achieve a common goal” was the outcome.

She identified the Four ‘P’s of effective collaboration;

Purpose – what it is going to achieve and how will you measure success?

People – who are you going to work with and where can you find the skills you need?

Processes – how will you define and analyse the problem?

Place – how will the team conduct their interactions – face-to-face or remotely?

Key things I learnt today;

Collaborating can make up for some of the deficiencies you might have as a researcher.

You need to set aside time and resources to make this happen.

Working with just one or two other people can bring about success – projects don’t have to be on a large scale.

You need to spot and develop opportunities – make the most of conferences by talking to people over lunch and attend the social events at the end of the day!

Read more about effective collaboration here.

 If you attended, we’d be interested in your thoughts and comments!


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