Collaborative research is any research undertaken between two or more institutions on an equal footing and taken solely for the purpose of scientific research and human welfare. In the era of globalization and complex problems, it has emerged as a powerful enhancer for scientific progress and innovation (Lee et al., 2018). Collaborative research takes advantage of specialized knowledge, shared resources and stresses the need of taking into account diverse perspectives (Bansal et al. 2019). Hence, collaborative research is by definition, more prone to be inclusive and diverse.Other benefits of collaborative research include:
- New discoveries
Collaborative research might gather researchers from different disciplines and institutions around the world. This situation creates an environment that promotes efficiency, because each partner can be specialized in a particular part of the project. By mixing complementary expertise and resources, a complex problem that surpasses individual capabilities might be solved. This situation enhances creativity and problem solving promoting scientific innovative discoveries. In addition, it improves the number of funding opportunities. The more international a project is, the stronger its future impact. This means that more institutions, governments, companies and associations might be interested in funding the project (Dusdal et al., 2021).
- Scientific rigor
Considering that collaborative research involves talking and communicating efficiently, many researchers will have to validate the obtained results and the process for which they are obtained. This ensures accuracy, validity and reproducibility of the data (Guerrero et al., 2013). Collective efforts to perform a task include critical thinking, revision of manuscripts from different perspectives, and quality and control mechanisms during experimental procedures. These efforts minimize errors and biases. A healthy and reasonable questioning of the procedures and statistics applied to the experiments improves not only a particular branch but the scientific community.
- Interdisciplinary approaches.
Integrating the knowledge and methods of very different fields researchers might explore new ways of solving problems. It is very difficult that an institution by itself has all the instruments that are needed to solve a complex problem. No one would ever think that complex, global problems such as climate change or public health crisis are going to be solved only from a very particular, specialized background (Lukkonen et al., 1992). One clear example of this collaborative, interdisciplinary approach could be the sequencing of the human genome.
- Transfer of knowledge
Collaborative research promotes collaboration not only within the university or within companies but in between them as well. Collaboration between universities and industries might accelerate the translation of research into practical applications. Indeed, a successful application of the research determines its social impact (Nyström et al.,2018). Collaboration between companies and universities also allows university students to understand how to work for a company, promoting mentoring relationships and expanding their professional networks.
- Diversity and equality
Research projects that want to build successful collaborations should pursue inclusivity and diversity. In collaborative projects, people not only come from different areas of knowledge but it might happen that they come from different parts of the world or from different social backgrounds. This situation leads, necessarily, to a certain degree of adaptation in between researchers. Mixing different cultures means different traditions, languages, schedules, festive days, different time zones, and different needs that need to be faced and discussed.
Public and private institutions should encourage collaborative research as it is the main way for tackling complex challenges. It is positive for the institutions which collaborate but also for the scientific community. I would like to stress particularly the effect that collaborations might have on Ph.D. students or graduate students, who might be able to do a period abroad while learning new skills that are far from their area of knowledge. It is also beneficial for networking and to enhance the robustness of their Ph.D. project.
- Bansal S., Mahendiratta S., Kumar S., Sarma P., Prakash A., Medhi B. (2019). Collaborative research in modern era: Need and challenges. Indian J Pharmacol. May-Jun;51(3):137-139. doi: 10.4103/ijp.IJP_394_19.
- Dusdal J. and Powell J.J.W. (2021). Benefits, Motivations, and Challenges of International Collaborative Research: A Sociology of Science Case Study, Science and Public Policy, Volume 48, Issue 2, April; 48(2):235–245, https://doi.org/10.1093/scipol/scab010
- Guerrero Bote, V.P., Olmeda-Gómez, C. and de Moya-Anegón, F. (2013), Quantifying the benefits of international scientific collaboration. J Am Soc Inf Sci Tec. 64: 392-404. https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.22754
- Lee, S., and Bozeman, B. (2005). The Impact of Research Collaboration on Scientific Productivity. Social Studies of Science, 35(5), 673–702. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312705052359
- Luukkonen, T., Persson, O., and Sivertsen, G. (1992). Understanding Patterns of International Scientific Collaboration. Science, Technology, & Human Values. 17(1), 101–126. https://doi.org/10.1177/016224399201700106
- Nyström, M.E., Karltun, J., Keller, C. et al. (2018). Collaborative and partnership research for improvement of health and social services: researcher’s experiences from 20 projects. Health Res Policy Sys. 16, 46. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12961-018-0322-0
About the Author:
Eva Maria Gomez Alvarez is a PhD student in Agrobiodiversity working in Italy and a 2023 Plantae Fellow. She studies cereal genetics and microbiome, and during her free time, she likes to play the flute, run and read feminist books. You can find her on Twitter at @eva_ga96.