Skip to main content

Andrew, Emily, Rachel, Tomoko group notes

5 min read

In our group, we started talking about the problem of assigning value to collaborative work in tenure process for fields w/o standard collaboration practices, esp at our institution. Noted that a SLAC can be an especially good place for interdisciplinary collaboration - discussed how institutional and individual roadblocks might be removed as well as advantages - we tend to know colleagues across disciplines at a small place, which might be less true at a large university. We talked also about motivations for collaboration and credit assignment in our disciplinary contexts as well as our institutional context. 

Throughout our conversations, we talked a lot about disambiguating collaboration and co-authorship, and the tendency to treat them as equivalent. 

Some of our thoughts spinning off of the readings (more or less loosely): 

Wuchty, Stefan, Benjamin F. Jones, and Brian Uzzi. “The Increasing Dominance of Teams in Production of Knowledge.” Science 316, no. 5827 (May 18, 2007): 1036–39.

We asked questions about this work and about work on trends in co-authorship across time more generally: have practices changed or has distribution of credit changed? That is, in fields where studies are finding that collaboration is now more common, is it in fact that co-authorship is now more often used as a way to acknowledge collaboration that may in the past have gone unacknowledged? (More below.) 


Contains an interesting discussion of how close (good?) collaboration that brings two disciplines together to solve a problem (as opposed to the kind of collaboration where pieces are broken out and reassembled or content or data is created by some and processed  by others: "If you're going to follow this route [of collaboration involving lots of engagement between say math and biology], you have to sit down with your mathematician, and you have to work through every single equation." We talked about the difference between someone who can understand this and someone who can reproduce it and make it usable; some forms of collaboration require one to be able to closely follow - but not necessarily practice - a different field. 

One thing that kept coming up across our discussions (and this was echoed in the larger groups discussion) was the crucial but often unacknowledged or undervalued role of the person in the collaboration who acts as the facilitator, who runs the collaboration and makes it work.

We talked about how research is always a risk, and collaborative research is a risk on top of a risk.  ("If had a copy of the Big Book of Algorithms That Don't Work I would have a million publications.) One of our group members talked about a collaboration he worked on that involved a wide range of scientists with different subspecialties, but he was the one who ended up writing the code (seen as a less important part of the work) and facilitating. A lot of work - requires spinning up side-projects, doing tutorials, teaching your collaborators new things - all the work you need to do to become a good-enough collaborator - and ended with a single publication. Was this collaboration worth it? Was it possible to figure that out ahead of time? (And what would make it worth it? Is the one publication likely to be higher-impact than a single-author publication? How much higher impact?) 

Bozeman, Barry, Daniel Fay, and Catherine P. Slade. “Research Collaboration in Universities and Academic Entrepreneurship: The-State-of-the-Art.” The Journal of Technology Transfer 38, no. 1 (November 28, 2012): 1–67. doi:10.1007/s10961-012-9281-8.

Inge, M. Thomas. “Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship.” PMLA 116, no. 3 (May 1, 2001): 623–30.

Research, Black Mountain. “COLLABORATION.” BLACK MOUNTAIN RESEARCH. Accessed January 5, 2016.

These readings led us to a discussion of editing as collaboration, and about the essay collection genre (series of single-author articles, often edited by more than one person, often the essays are connected to one another) as a form of collaborative work  in various disciplines - literature, linguistics. The experience of editing a collection or an essay as a form of collaboration. 

We talked more about the conflation of collaboration and co-authorship in relation to the Inge article: where do you draw the line on what you treat as or name co-authorship? Are language communities co-authors for a linguist? Is Inge's bookstore owner a co-author? 

Case study, guidelines, best practice: it would be interesting to create a document that was a taxonomy of collaboration practices 

Co-authorship can be not very collaborative, collaborative work needs facilitation 

We did some thinking about some desirable seminar outcomes: 

- Things to think about when you collaborate 

- Can we make a list of worst practices  as well as best practices (Bozeman et al)?

- What is the "dark side" (Bozeman et al) of collaboration, and can we talk more about it?