Ten Simple Rules for a Successful Research Collaboration

Ten Simple Rules for a Successful Research Collaboration

Ten Simple Rules for a Successful Research

Collaboration

Given that collaboration is crucial, how do we pick the right collaborators, and how can you make the collaboration work in the best possible way? This question came to my mind since currently as a regenerative designer I am involved in a few research and development projects and, keeping in mind my ups and downs, I wanted to share with you these simple rules that I believe will help our maker community to choose wisely in which collab projects they should get in or not.

Here are my ten simple rules based on our experience that I hope will help you. Keep in mind that these rules are for both you and your collaborators.

Always remember to treat your collaborators as you would want to be treated yourself and that empathy is the key.

Rule 1: Do Not Be Lured into Just Any Collaboration

Learn to say “No”, even if it is to an attractive grant that would involve a significant amount of money and/or if it is a collaboration with someone more established and well-known. It is easier to say “no” at the beginning—the longer an ill-fated collaboration drags on, the harder it is to sever, and the worse it will be in the end. 

Ask yourself, will this collaboration really make a difference in my research? Does this grant constitute a valid motivation to seek out that collaboration? Do I have the expertise required to tackle the proposed tasks? What priority will this teamwork have for me? Will I be able to deliver on time? If the answer is “no” for even one of these questions, the collaboration could be ill-fated.

ENTER A COLLABORATION BECAUSE OF A SHARED PASSION FOR THE SCIENCE . . .

Rule 2: Decide at the Beginning Who Will Work on Which Tasks

Carefully establishing the purpose of the collaboration and delegating responsibilities is priceless. Often the collaboration will be defined by a grant. In that case, revisit the specific aims regularly and be sure the respective responsibilities are being met. 

Once given the delegation of tasks, It is very important to discuss expectations for authorship early in the work. New ideas will arise. Have a mutual understanding up-front that these ideas can be embraced as an extension of the original collaboration. Discuss adjustments to the timelines and the order of authors on the final published paper, prototype, or product accordingly. In any case, be comfortable with the anticipated credit you will get from the work. 

At this point I highly recommend using important Project Management Tools such as Discord, Miro, Gantt Diagrams, Trello, Asana, among others. Additional recommended tools can be found on the following link: https://financesonline.com/top-20-online-collaboration-tools-for-project-managers/ .

Rule 3: Stick to Your Tasks

Research and Creative Design are such that every answered question begs a number of new questions to be answered. Do not digress into these new questions without first discussing them with your collaborators. Do not change your initial plans without discussing the change with your collaborators. Thinking they will be pleased with your new approach or innovation is often misplaced and can lead to conflict. 

As designers, our main responsibility is to conceptualize and design future products and services by always keeping in mind their impact into the wellbeing of natural and human made ecosystems. Therefore, our solutions should be tested prior to delivering our final products and services.

Some very useful tools for this creative and prototyping process are Design Thinking, Business Model Canvas, among others. For more complex and challenging contexts, Scrum. In regards to technologies and equipment we can mention a few: Laser Cut and Engraving Machines, Digital Milling Machines, 3D Printing, CAD CAM; Sublimation Printing, Digital Ink/Stitch etc.

Rule 4: Be Open and Honest

By using the project and design management tools in Rules 2 and 3, share design drafts, references, data, protocols, materials, etc., and make papers accessible prior to its product / service delivery, paper, magazine and book publication. Remain available. A trusting relationship is important for the collaborative understanding of the problem (that is being solved) and for the subsequent joint thinking throughout the evolution of the collaboration.

Rule 5: Feel Respect, Get Respect

If you do not have respect for the creative, scientific or technical work of your collaborators, you should definitely not be collaborating. Respect here especially means playing by Rules 2–4. If you do not respect your collaborators, it will show. Likewise, if they don’t respect you. Look for the signs. The signs will depend on the personality of your collaborators and range from being aggressive to being passive–aggressive. For example, getting your tasks done in a timely manner should be your priority. 

Showing respect would be to inform your collaborator when you cannot make a previously agreed-upon deadline, so that other arrangements can be made.

Rule 6: Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate

Consistent communication with your collaborators is the best way to make sure the partnership is going in the planned direction. Nothing new here, it is the same as for friendship, marriage or any other significant relationship. Communication is always better face-to-face if possible, for example by traveling to meet your collaborators, or by scheduling discussion related to your collaborations during conferences that the people involved will attend.

Synchronous communication by telephone or video teleconferencing is preferred over asynchronous collaboration by e-mail (data could be exchanged by email prior to a call so that everyone can refer to the data while talking).

The excitement of a new collaboration can often quickly dissipate as the first hurdles to new projects appear. The direct consequence can be a progressive lack of interest and focus to get the job done. After all, your collaborators could just be having a difficult time for reasons outside of their control and unanticipated at the time the collaboration started. After three chances, if it feels like the collaboration cannot be saved, move on. You may still need to deal with the co-authorship, but hopefully for one paper only!

Rule 7: Protect Yourself from a Collaboration That Turns Sour

Rule 8: Always Acknowledge and Cite Your Collaborators

This applies as soon as you mention preliminary results. Be clear on who undertook what aspect of the work being reported. Additionally, citing your collaborators can reveal your dynamism and your skills at developing prosperous professional relationships. This skill will be valued by your peers throughout your career.

Even though you may not encounter severe difficulties that would result in the failure of the partnership, each collaboration will come with a particular set of challenges. To overcome these obstacles, interact with colleagues not involved in the work, such as your former advisors or professors in your department who have probably been through all kinds of collaborations. They will offer insightful advice that will help you move beyond the current crisis. Remember, however, that a crisis can occasionally lead to a breakthrough. Do not, therefore, give up on the collaboration too easily.

Foto de RF._.studio en Pexels

Rule 9: Seek Advice from Experienced Designers, Scientists and ProTechs

Rule 10: If Your Collaboration Satisfies You, Keep It Going

Ever wondered why a pair of authors, creators, designers has published so many papers together? Well, it is like any good recipe: when you find one that works, you cook it again and again. Successful teamwork will tend to keep flourishing—the first project, research paper, product will stimulate deeper and/or broader collaboration projects that will in turn lead to more projects. As you get to know your collaborators, you begin to understand work habits, strengths but also weaknesses, as well as respective areas of knowledge.

Accepting these things and working together can make the work advance rapidly, but do not hurry: it takes time and effort from both sides to get to this point.

Foto de fauxels en Pexels

References

  • Quentin Vicens is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, United States of America. 
  • Philip E. Bourne is the Editor-in-Chief of PLoS Computational Biology.
  • PLOS COMPUTATIONAL BIOLOGY : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1847992/
New Normality Post COVID19

New Normality Post COVID19

New Normality Post COVID19

Post Pandemic Covid19 new normality allowed us to feel a sense of urgency to fully protect our health, safety, and value our freedom and lives, and hopefully we had learned to respect our planet. The main characteristics that we are looking for in our clothing are: durability, easy-to-wear items to help us navigate a cyclical chain of events, as we are no longer willing to waste time and money on clothing that offers otherwise. Now, we have been forced to admit it.

The economic crisis that has been imposed on us after Pandemic Covid19 has left us without disposable income to accumulate fast fashion trends. Therefore, we will have to invest into more essential products and be more creative with what we already have.

normality
Skin Electronics Project by Mashua Project and Animai Studio

The return to arts and crafts at home:

According to Luxiders Magazine, all above means the return to sewing skills, products made to last rather than made to wear for a minute, creative concepts of reinvention, and the art of costume swaps. Also, core values ​​such as respect for craftsmanship, the need for collaboration, and the antidote for connection will be challenging, since conventional fashion is designed to favor the few beyond immeasurable influence, while subduing the hands behind garments and accessories.

Some examples of these new market trends are the several online tutorials and masterclasses that are being offered through different Social Media platforms in regards of recycling, upcycling, DYI facemasks, face shields, diet planning and recipes, physical trainings among others.

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norm

The redesign of User Experience at private and public areas:

Finally, Hypochondria will be joined by Agoraphobia and Social Claustrophobia, due to current sanitary protocols that have been implemented worldwide. This New Normality may force us to avoid crowds, crowded spaces or those lacking adequate ventilation, which implies a comprehensive redesign of the customer experience in shopping centers, gyms, cinemas, airplanes, cruise ships, beauty salons, schools; etc. Mobility will be a sector widely affected by this trend and consequently the energy sector, due to the consumption of oil generated by this sector. Fashion accessories like foulards, face masks, hoods, vests, and other multifunctional, timeless, minimalist, and durable garments will be around for the years to come.

The collective challenge:

So, what’s next? It’s time to rewrite the narrative. Everyone in the fashion design industry needs to go beyond divisive and individualistic motives; that they take sustainability not as a trend, but as the solution; and that it has come to stay.

Facemasks’ Environmental Impact

Facemasks’ Environmental Impact

Facemasks’ Environmental Impact

During this Lockdown Economy caused by COVID19, our hygiene habits and protocols have changed. Some accessories, such as facemasks or face shields will remain as part of our fashion essentials for a while, as they had been declared mandatory since last May 2020.

Environmental Impact of Personal Protection Equipment PPE (New Shielding Accesories)

Therefore, many fashion brands have launched different models of facemasks made with sustainable materials and others have opted for less sustainable, semi-synthetic materials, but with filters that offer different levels of protection against biological and chemical haazards.

Most of the disposable facemasks are made from plastics including polypropylene, polythene and vinyl, materials that will end into the oceans and take up to 450 years to decompose. Fashion is already the second most polluting industry in the planet, therefore, we can’t continue consuming without awareness, respect and care for the environment.

According to a study in the Environmental Science and Technology’s Journal, an estimated 129 billion disposable face masks and 65 billion gloves are used every month worldwide. Therefore, we should start developing solutions to reduce, mitigate and eliminate de main causes of current sanitary crisis and implement waste management good practices at all levels.

One of the main environmental impact of synthetic facemasks is that unfortunately most of them are released and absorbed into the oceans. Thereafter, plastics break down into smaller pieces over time, and the longer litter is in the environment, the more it will decompose. Plastics first break down into microplastics and eventually into even smaller nanoplastics. These tiny particles and fibres are often long-lived polymers that can accumulate in food chains (marine biodiversity). Just one mask can produce millions of particles each, with the potential to also carry chemical hazards and bacteria up the food chain and potentially even into humans.

Facemask

Reduction of Facemasks’ Environmental Impact – Waste Management

Last March 2018, a study led by the Ocean Cleanup Foundation reported the presence of an entire island of 1.8 billion plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean with an estimated weight of 80,000 tons. Can you imagine how many non-biodegradable and toxic waste, we are generating with the increase in demand for personal protective garments and accessories? What about when domestic and international flights are reestablished? Are you aware of the waste management procedures that have been adopted?

The conservation organization Oceans Asia announced the urgency of creating a second and third life for facemasks, filters, and gloves.   In Puerto Llano, Spain a company called Therman had started offering recycling services and this type of initiative must be replicated all over the world.

In Spain, the Senior Council for Scientific Research announced some weeks ago a project developing biodegradable antiviral filters that could be changed daily in masks. Other alternatives include those of KAIST Korea’s science and technology university, , which announced in March that it had succeeded in creating reusable filters that can then be washed, while maintaining efficacy similar to the disposable surgical masks. Or, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which in April announced the launch of facial protection equipment that could be reused after being disinfected; it should be ready for at-scale production and sold at affordable prices.

facemask2

Sustainable Textiles Research and Development Challenge

In Latin America some shielding textiles had been developed combining natural fibers such cotton, alpaca, silver and copper fibers, based on the anti-bacterial and virucidal properties of these metals. There are still some further research to be made though, since not all of them comply with the medical textiles´s standards.

What about the facemasks that we can made at home? Majority are made with cotton fabric, but will not completely protect the wearer, but they help to reduce the risk of infecting others. Then, a proper protective filter is needed to enhance its shielding features effectively.  

If we compare the CO2 footprint of each fabrication process: N95 Facemask footprint is 20% less than homemade ones, but the picture is different after a 30-day usage, since the homemade ones can be reused and washed.

Which actions shall we take to reduce Facemasks’ Environmental Impact?

According to the World Health Organization, the following recommendations can be implemented into our daily lives:

  1. Use reusable masks without disposable filters. Machine wash them regularly following the instructions for the fabric.
  2. Try to carry a spare so if something goes wrong with the one you’re wearing you don’t need to use or buy a disposable mask.
  3. If you do need to use a disposable mask, take it home (maybe in a bag if you have to take it off) and then put it straight into a bin with a lid. If this isn’t possible, place it in a proper public bin.
  4. Don’t put disposable masks in the recycling. They can get caught in specialist recycling equipment and be a potential biohazard to waste workers.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t litter them!

2020 will be the year that we will remember as a year of social distance, accelerated digitalization, but also a year of COVID19 Waste Impact, as there is an urgent need to disseminate and implement material waste disposal procedures and create recollection/reuse centers for the waste generated by the new protective garments and essentials.   Nevertheless, there are various lines of research currently underway aiming to create protective equipment for the public that has less of an impact on the environment. 

Sources:La Voz de Puerto Llano newspaper, BBVA Science and Environment Face Masks and Recycling: Moving Towards a New Sustainable Normal,The Guardian Newspaper ‘More masks than jellyfish’: coronavirus waste ends up in ocean,Ecochain The rise of the face mask: What’s the environmental impact of 17 million N95 masks? ,INTEXTER UPC Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña and ISO Fiber and Yarns Standards.

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