Multi-institutional collaboration

Today I was in conversation with colleagues about a potential three-way collaboration between our various labs. Over the course of the discussion, something obvious occurred to me: The more institutions in your collaboration, the harder it is.

For one thing, everybody needs to get something out of it. We’re all busy and oversubscribed. So nobody is just going to volunteer to collaborate just because it’s good for everyone else.

But even beyond that, the collaboration needs to work gracefully for everyone, on an operational level. Hardware and software need to be compatible, students need to be able to speak the same language (both literally and metaphorically), and production practices need to be aligned.

So it occurred to me that whatever our eventual plans for collaboration, our first step should be to do something easy. Not as in “little work”, but rather as in “low technical risk”. We should start with a pure production project that makes good use of everyone’s existing capabilities, and that would be fun and engaging for all.

Once we manage that, we can start to get ambitious and try something that might surprise us.

One Response to “Multi-institutional collaboration”

  1. I concur. I also have noticed that collaboration can founder on other little things, like timing. The timing of semesters, the starts and ends of days, the length of programs (some short, some long). We are frequently challenged, when working with industry, to explain why we can’t start something “right now” but instead have to wait until the next semester. But we struggle on.

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