I was at the SRAI Midwest Conference this spring, and our keynote said an interesting line that has stuck with me all this time: “Collaboration is like joining the nudist community, go all in or go home.” I have had both successful and unsuccessful collaborations both at work and in my personal life, and I can recognize the truth in this statement.

A person’s willingness, commitment, and fortitude in the face of collaboration is one of the most important factors in predicting a success endeavor.

Research is inherently collaborative, and thus the management of research and research administration is also inherently collaborative. Our keynote also said that “Research administration is a profession built not on knowing things—but rather, on knowing where to go and how to get information.” I believe this is one of our more singular strengths. I’ve often thought that our professional motto should be “share and share alike.” We are so collegial to the point that we’ve forgotten the rules of principal authorship—meaning that so many people were involved in finding the best possible tool for the job at hand that, in the end, we’ve no idea who should get the credit.

Collaboration is so subtly ingrained into our work culture that we often forget how to translate these skills when it comes to writing a manuscript or presenting a conference session.  Here are a few tips on how to foster healthy and productive collaborations with your peers in research administration:

  1. Understand the compelling need. Why do you need this collaboration? What is the problem you are trying to solve? Why is it compelling?
  2. Clearly communicate your expectations. If you have a target journal you want to publish for—communicate that journal, their upcoming deadline, and your plan to meet that deadline.
  3. Delegate according to personal strengths. Get to know everyone on your team and assign tasks based on individual strengths and eagerness.
  4. Set measurable goals based on your deadline. Provide each team member with a set of tasks that they need to complete by a certain date and time. Check in frequently with phone calls or video-conferencing to celebrate progress.
  5. Avoid duplication with good communication. Distance and cross-institutional collaborations can be difficult, manage cohesion with weekly touch-point emails. Discuss individual goals and objectives or utilize software to track the team’s successes visually.

I am always looking to collaborate with someone and learn from someone new. Establishing a collaborative environment is vital to the success of any profession, but especially in research administration. I hope you found these tips helpful and your next collaboration is successful!