Thursday, June 23, 2011

Academic writing - collaborator or lone wolf?

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is the topic of research, writing, and publishing. If you want to be in academia research and publishing is a must while if you want to be in the private sector it may not be as important (I am guessing it's not - but if you are of differing opinion leave a comment!) In thinking of research and publishing one of the questions that comes to mind is to go at it alone for the most part (i.e. researching and publishing mostly stuff you work on your own, and keep collaboration limited), or to collaborate with people for the most part keeping some special topics for yourself (something that you don't want to share with others or something that is so specialized that you can't collaborate).

Having worked in groups, and alone, through four masters programs I haven't come to a conclusion which method I prefer. As a lone wolf I can set the tone and the schedule. If I want to slack off one day but really go at it another I can. You can't really do this with collaborative group work. On top of that with group work you have the potential problem of the person that does little or no work but still expects to be part of the project or get the credit. In grad school you can't really eject people from a project, but I guess as an independent researcher if someone isn't contributing or has fallen off the face of the earth you can easily remove their name from the credits.

I haven't decided whether I would want to pursue the tenure track, but publishing matters in tenure decisions (right?) so what would tenure committees look more favorably upon? Collaborative (and sometimes transdisciplinary) research and publishing work? Or lone-wolf style research and publishing? My feeling is that collaborating with others not only distributes the weight of the work, but also gives people an opportunity to learn from one another; however if that work is discounted because you were one of two (or one of three, or four) people that worked on a paper, does this serve as a disincentive for collaboration and cross-discipline learning?


Your thoughts?
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