Inspire has a considerable range of membership levels representing a diverse variety of expertise and experience. However we invite all members to participate in the various modes of collaboration available in order to further develop their understanding of the practice of research and how to utilize its results.
It has recently been noted that a fundamental shift is taking place with the rise of networks of research collaboration in every region of the world and changing the balance of global research activity. Inspire endeavors to emphasize and facilitate this shift in virtual research collaboration.
What does scientific collaboration encompass?
Scientific collaboration can cover a range of activities, from simple informal queries posed to other Inspire members about an intriguing scientific question, discussions between a mentor and a new Patron member, all the way to formally structured scientific projects which require members of a research team to have particular skills for achieving specified research goals in support of funding requirements. Inspire members at different levels of membership will have a variety of backgrounds, experience and perspectives. Collaborative research leverages the exchanging of ideas across disciplines, often requires learning new skills, and can result in enhanced quality of the results.
The formats for this variety of collaborative undertakings could involve blogs and informal virtual discussion groups in the simplest cases, brainstorming sessions to probe and formulate a new idea, all the way to organized virtual research presentations and team meetings to organize more structured projects. The issues encountered in collaboration include the making of operational plans, the assignment of particular roles of each team member, the ability to communicate effectively between those of different backgrounds, the equitable sharing of credit, responsibility and research funding, the necessity of holding frequent meetings and the importance of adhering to deadlines.
What are the issues encountered in scientific collaboration?
Research collaboration has been likened to Hitchcock’s celebrated film noir Strangers on a Train in which individuals who have only recently met suddenly find themselves in the situation of having to formulate a mutual plan to achieve a goal without knowing whether or not all the members are working at odds with each other, all the while having high stakes as to the outcome.
Any successful collaboration has to have mutually beneficial outcomes among a typically diverse group of participants that cuts across gender, age, geographical origin and other differences. As a result, it’s necessary that there be clearly defined goals and mutually beneficial outcomes for each member of a collaborative research team. To achieve success, each team member needs to have a specific purpose within the team based on their skills and expertise and be able to see the mutual benefit of being part of the team with trust in one another. Inevitably, the more inexperienced researchers will find it advantageous working with more experienced researchers who can provide direction, support and insight. The group dynamics of a research team can be derailed by a number of factors including hidden agendas, personal differences, poor group skills, and language barriers. If the research is at the basic level involving scientific foundations, there will in addition inevitably be a balance of the “slow tempo of contemplation and reflection” with the “faster energetic rhythms of discovery and research” imposed by time deadlines. All of the above can be further expedited if the goals, processes and procedures of the collaboration, including authorship and publishing are initially clearly articulated in written form.
Inspire has experienced research members who have been through all of the above experiences in numerous funded research programs. With Inspire’s “bottom-up” structure, we can use this experience to help facilitate the formation of a wide variety of collaborations so that team members feel appreciated, all are working towards a common goal and have opportunities to demonstrate their contributions, so that personal competitiveness is reduced and the unique contribution of each person is respected and recognized with the entire team benefiting.
How does Inspire’s organization enhance collaboration?
Inspire Institute is not a top-down organization but instead encourages members to freely carry out scientific inquiry individually or in collaboration as they choose. Inspire has an intellectual property rights policy in which scientists who conduct research will retain the control of patents, copyrights, processes or formulas resulting from such research.
Inspire institute is ideal for those that desire to collaborate on research and projects and can provide tools that facilitate collaboration:
- Facilitates coordination between groups of researchers
- Forum software for hosting discussions on a particular topic
- Virtual discussion addressing member posted papers
- Support for virtual meetings
- Collaborative response to a call for research proposals
- Support of on-line workshops, tutorials, and conferences