A survey of over 600 senior academics, mid-tier researchers and postgraduate students in the physical, natural and social sciences has revealed that many feel they do not have the skills needed for successful collaborative research projects. Only 20 percent of participants said that they had accessed training on collaboration through their institution or externally. At the same time, collaborative research is becoming increasingly common in almost every discipline. The findings of the survey are published in the Nature Research (part of Springer Nature) survey report “Collaboration in Research”.
Although collaborative research has always been important, in the past 50 years it has become increasingly prevalent. One of the reasons for the rise in the number of collaborative research projects is that travel and communication across the world are now much easier and affordable than in the past. Another reason is that today’s research projects often involve large datasets, powerful computing, or deal with global societal challenges like clean energy generation or climate change. The breadth of expertise and skills required to tackle such projects cannot, in most cases, be covered by a single individual, laboratory or company. A further reason academics are keen to collaborate is because the publications that arise from collaborative research – including academia-industry collaborations – are usually more highly cited.
“It is especially important for early-career researchers to feel confident working on collaborative research projects because these may open doors to a wide range of future projects, or even last an entire career,” explained Victoria Pavry, Head of Publishing, Researcher and Conference Services at Springer Nature. “One step we can take to ensure that academics are equipped for collaborative research is to offer suitable training on the skills collaboration requires, like teamwork, project and people management, communication across cultures and disciplines, big data management, administrative and negotiation skills.”
Nature Masterclasses focus on upskilling and supporting the research community, and a new online course aimed at early and mid-career researchers called “Effective Collaboration in Research” has been developed based on these survey results. The three-part online course has been designed with busy researchers in mind and is self-paced, bite-sized, and on demand. An invited panel of expert contributors helped to shape the scope and content of the course, and some also feature in the course videos. The panel comprises academics from across the international scientific community, all of whom have extensive experience and expertise in collaborative research.
Forthcoming courses in the Nature Masterclasses series are also being developed based on direct feedback from the research and wider community. The 2020 series will draw on consultations with researchers, and will be launched in formats that best suit researchers’ needs, while addressing skills and knowledge gaps identified by them.