So, what is the point of collaborative research? Some projects require collaboration because of their complexity and the increasing specialization of scientists or the expense of the latest technology, but some projects could conceivably be completed by a single lab or group. So, why collaborate?
Collaborating with labs outside of his/her institution gives an investigator access to new ideas and the ability to have conversations about the project with peers. At its heart, I believe collaborative research is all about the information. Not surprising, given my perspective as a librarian, but I think it’s true. Anyone with access to the proper equipment or subjects can produce data, but real breakthroughs come through the interpretation of the data. What do these data mean? That, at its core, is an information and knowledge problem, not a scientific one.
The key to a successful collaboration then becomes getting the right information to the right investigator at the right time. If you have 2 investigators working together, that’s rarely a problem. If you have 100 investigators at 70 institutions around the world, it can be a huge problem. This is not just a technological problem but an organizational one. How do you organize people so they can communicate effectively and efficiently without drowning in noise? Science is traditionally very hierarchical, with set paths to the top of the food chain, but does collaboration change all that?