|At the Christmas market, Heidelberg|
Nowadays, collaboration is usually the only way that researchers can be eligible to receive funding, and journal papers reveal more and more people working together. Collaboration is connecting, communicating and networking, and is a valuable activity which can help you to amplify your profile and extend your reach, not only for work purposes but also in your personal life; in fact, in some cases your collaborators can gradually become your friends. When you see professors greeting each other affectionately at conferences, it’s very likely that they first got to know each other many years ago when they were a PhD student or postdoc. Even those who have left academia, like me, have benefited from staying in touch with previous colleagues. When work takes me off to other universities and institutions, as well as foreign lands, the experience is always more enjoyable if it involves the possibility of meeting up with someone I know who is based there, where we can catch up on news (usually over a drink or dinner J).
At the earlier stages of your career you may not have a very large network, but keep building on it, make connections and manoeuver it according to the way your career is progressing. If you’re attending a conference on your own, you only need to identify one or two friendly people in order to hook up and feel more connected. Twitter hashtags, issued before conferences, allow you to communicate with delegates before setting off, so even those you haven’t met will become familiar names when you arrive. Look at the conference programme and consider emailing PhD students or postdocs who are presenting, or likely to be interested, in similar sessions to yourself. Don’t worry about trying to find something in common with them, your subject will serve this purpose, after which your personalities and interests will determine whether the collaboration turns into friendship.
Skype meetings, speculative emails and other on-line tools can also enable you to collaborate across continents from the comfort of your lab or office. You may need some help with a current problem related to your research, you may be looking for a new perspective to help you to interpret your data. Whatever the reason for connecting with someone, always take a polite and respectful approach and aim for the collaboration to be mutually beneficial. Ultimately, your collaborative ventures may also help with your career along the way, since the more people you meet, the more likely you will be exposed to opportunities.
|Pictured right with Barbara Janssens|
Happy Holidays, take CARE and see you in 2015!