Successful collaborations often share key characteristics that help ensure members of the team are working well together, that all members are treated equitably, and are striving toward common goals. These include:
- Recognition of, and adjustment for, power differentials in the collaboration (these power differentials could be based on rank, gender, race, or other group dynamics). For example, setting up team meetings so that everyone has a turn to speak.
- Trust and safety (mental and physical), particularly for those who may be more vulnerable in the collaboration. Trust builds over time, and teams can begin with an agreement to keep all team conversations confidential.
- Setting common goals and having common values. Having a living document to articulate the goals of the particular collaboration may be helpful to structure this conversation.
- Striving toward and maintaining an equitable environment in which each voice, intellectual input, and direction is valued. The rich communication of an equitable collaboration may mean that more time needs to be allocated to synchronous meetings so that everyone can take a turn contributing ideas.
- Being transparent about the project’s progress, challenges that may occur, financial issues (particularly if they have implications for personnel funding), etc.
- This transparency includes conversations about stipend and benefits and how different projects may impact for the financial support of graduate students. Being clear is kind.
- Communication with each other and agreed upon process (e.g., expectations for response time) for professional communication in person, via email, in virtual environments.
- Quality of communication is more important than quantity. Honesty about limitations on time and resources is key to establishing boundaries for the collaboration.
Consideration of (a) working style (b) research fit and (c) personality match. Sometimes collaborations do not ‘click’ and that is okay. Setting a time frame for a trial period to see whether or not the collaboration will work can be useful if everyone agrees to it. If a trial has funding implications, this should be openly discussed.
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D. Clark. 2021. Equitable Research Collaborations Between Faculty and Graduate Students: Best Practices. University of Massachusetts ADVANCE Program.