Collaborative Research

Reflect on your own research practices

What does it mean to you to engage with collaborators ethically and responsibly?

What skills can you develop to more effectively engage in collaborative research ethically and responsibly?

How can you minimize potential issues that could result from your research collaborations?

How can you learn to communicate more effectively with collaborators from different sectors, disciplines, cultures or contexts than your own?

Interdisciplinary collaborations and research partnerships with other institutions, industry, government, communities and knowledge users are increasingly common. Collaboration and co-creation with diverse partners can enhance our collective capacity to tackle greater research challenges and to create additional outcomes that have far-reaching impacts.

When engaging in collaborative research, we should be mindful to proactively and appropriately address potential threats to research integrity at each stage of the collaboration. We may find ourselves uniquely challenged by differences in expectations, priorities, values, perceived fairness, readiness and the ability to address both anticipated and unexpected issues. It is important to be aware of potential risks and to take the necessary steps to safeguard our research.

We are responsible to hold ourselves and other collaborators accountable for conducting research responsibly and ethically.



Continually develop your understanding of the context and culture of your research collaborators

Building trust, respect and reciprocity can support you to have successful collaborations. Engaging in deep partnership requires us to listen with openness, curiosity and humility, to reflect on our approaches and assumptions, as well as to examine the alignment between our intentions and the impact of our relationships with our research partners, participants and the environment. Be mindful and conscientious of the unique strengths that each collaborator brings to the project as well as any barriers they may face that could impact the collaboration. Understand what motivates your partner to proceed with your partnership.


Engage in frequent and transparent communications

Developing shared norms for communicating can help collaboration go more smoothly. It allows us to follow established processes to discuss and resolve unexpected problems, avoid unnecessary loss of data, disseminate critical information to all collaborators and detect deviation from pre-determined protocols. Also, it is important to keep in mind how collaboration may impact those under your management. High levels of transparency between collaborators throughout the project are important for cultivating trust, collegiality and accountability.


Formalize and document the processes and products of your collaboration 

In addition to creating shared communication norms between collaborators, it may be necessary to include formal agreements around the material or data transfer, data and intellectual property ownership and use, to manage your collaborative efforts between research partners, institutions and/or funding sponsors. Connect with research support services, such as the University-Industry Liaison Office and Indigenous Research Support Initiative, as appropriate, to facilitate this process and help set up your project for success. 


Complex logistics

Depending on the nature and scope of research, collaborators may have to adopt new technology for secure data sharing, manage multiple budgets, navigate different cultures in various contexts (e.g., government, industry and communities) and/or coordinate across multiple time zones and geographical locations. Take the time to discuss communication expectations and norms to mitigate these common challenges.

Balancing expectations with your or others’ capacity

Even when we proactively address anticipated problems and develop an effective plan to manage them, everyone on the team (or in the project) is expected to fulfil their roles and responsibilities and to be flexible to accommodate changes during the course of events. When there is a perception of an imbalance of contributions between collaborators, conflicts may arise. Aim to have open and transparent conversations about your or others’ capacities and revisit shared agreements to help clarify expectations and reduce potential conflict.

Differences in discipline, culture and communication styles

While frequent and clear communication increases the possibility of successful collaboration, it is rarely without challenges. Differences between disciplines can occasionally lead to miscommunication and disagreements. Cultural differences can also influence how collaborators convey and/or interpret information. Assume good intentions and commit to developing your understanding of the context, culture and perspectives of your collaborators.

Did You Know?

While some principles and values are common practice for successful collaborations, you may need to apply additional principles, protocols and ethical considerations to the unique context of your collaborative research engagement. Take the time to find out what resources and support services are available to facilitate your collaborative research.




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