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December 05, 2011

Collaborative working

The author for this week's theme is Francesca Scott. Francesca is a doctoral researcher in the department of English and Comparative Literature. Her research focuses on the history of midwifery, female sexuality and female health in the eighteenth century. She will be supporting your progress this week through your blogs. Or you can contact Francesca through her Research Match profile.

“Collaborate” is a tag often thrown around academia, and not everyone understands its significance. It can be inherent in what we do— say if, for example, we work in a lab or as part of a larger research project that requires collaboration in order to meet its goal. But to other researchers, its use may not be so obvious. We may have to be prompted to consider it as something worth our time and effort, especially when it seems easier to work in isolation. In actual fact, it is likely that we are all “collaborating” in one way or another, whether we realise it or not. By responding to a critic in our thesis, or by engaging with a reading group, network, class—all this is collaboration.

As researchers from the Science Policy and Research Unit from the University of Sussex have outlined, the international research community could be considered as one big collaboration in the sense that every research activity we undertake is contributing to a larger global activity, advancing the field we work in— whether that be biological sciences, statistics, applied linguistics, or eighteenth century literature.

The “Collaborative Working” tutorial will therefore explore a variety of online tools that can help facilitate collaborative work, and help us appreciate this important aspect of academia. GoogleDocs can help us collaborate on a document together in real time, avoiding sending attachments back and forth, while Dropbox allows us to store and share files with others using file synchronization, avoiding the problems that can arise when using a variety of technology. Once we feel confident with these technologies, we can then attempt to do some “real life” collaboration by updating the content on Wikipedia, thus prompting us to fully engage with this idea of “global collaboration”.

Each of these three things will also allow us to consider the connections we make with other researchers more fully, to be aware of the ways in which we collaborate, while helping us to forge new connections and to collaborate in different, and perhaps even unexpected, ways.


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