COLLABORATION

Gap in training on collaborative skills presents opportunity for educators

SOURCE: Diz Play / Unsplash
Two-thirds of academics think that training on collaboration will benefit their career.

In academia these days, collaboration is prevalent and essential for the furthering of disciplines. And yet, the majority of senior academics, mid-tier researchers and postgraduate students in the physical, natural and social sciences feel they do not have the skills needed for successful collaborative research projects.

A new survey, published in the Nature Research, found that only 20 percent of the over 600 participants said they had accessed training on collaboration through their institution or externally. And two-thirds of academics think that training on collaboration will benefit their career.

The “Collaboration in Research” report also shows that collaboration is on the rise and now just an accepted part of academia.

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While research partnerships have always been common, these are now stretching across borders and disciplines thanks to the affordability of global travel and technology making communication far easier. The expectation to partner with industry is also growing. A major reason universities are keen for faculty to pursue such opportunities is because publications that arise from collaborative research – including academia-industry collaborations – are usually more highly cited.

The growth is unstoppable, and yet very few academics have been given the appropriate training to ensure such partnerships are a success. Research collaborations with thousands of authors are becoming commonplace, but to handle a project of this size demands a diverse skill set including interpersonal skills, project management, and administration. These are not necessarily skills that researchers innately possess.

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This presents an opportunity for anyone willing to step in a provide the necessary training to help academics ease into the collaboration process. And that’s exactly what Nature Research has done with the creation of their Nature Masterclasses.

The scheme has been developed to provide professional development training for researchers. As part of Springer Nature – a leading academic and educational publisher – they know what they’re talking about.

According to their website, the initiative started as a provider of scientific writing and publishing training — drawing on the expertise of journal editors at Nature Research.

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In 2016, their second online course expanded training to peer reviewers. And its latest expansion in 2019 sees the launch of its third course, Effective Collaboration in Research. To date, over 50,000 researchers from over 180 countries have benefited from Nature Masterclasses’ training.

“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.”