Collaborative working

What is this about?

Good principles underlying successful research collaborations.

Why is this important?

A lot of scientific work happens through collaboration. Yet, collaborations can also lead to conflict when there is lack of clarity about the roles of different collaborators, or when expectations are not met.

Collaborative work has become more important over the past few decades, partially due to the rise of interdisciplinary research. For instance, the average number of co-authors on research papers for the PNAS rose from 3.9 in 1981 to 8.4 in 2001 (1).

For whom is this important?


What are the best practices?

The European Code of Conduct states that good research practice with regard to collaborations are based on the following principles:

  • All partners in research collaborations take responsibility for the integrity of the research.
  • All partners in research collaborations agree at the outset on the goals of the research and on the process for communicating their research as transparently and openly as possible.
  • All partners formally agree at the start of their collaboration on expectations and standards concerning research integrity, on the laws and regulations that will apply, on protection of the intellectual property of collaborators, and on procedures for handling conflicts and possible cases of misconduct.
  • All partners in research collaborations are properly informed and consulted about submissions for publication of the research results. (ECC 2017, section 2.6)

Vicens Q, Bourne PE (2007) suggest the following rules (1)

Rule 1: Do Not Be Lured into Just Any Collaboration
Rule 2: Decide at the Beginning Who Will Work on What Tasks
Rule 3: Stick to Your Tasks
Rule 4: Be Open and Honest
Rule 5: Feel Respect, Get Respect
Rule 6: Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate
Rule 7: Protect Yourself from a Collaboration That Turns Sour
Rule 8: Always Acknowledge and Cite Your Collaborators
Rule 9: Seek Advice from Experienced Scientists
Rule 10: If Your Collaboration Satisfies You, Keep It Going


1. Vicens, Quentin, and Philip E. Bourne. 2007. “Ten Simple Rules for a Successful Collaboration.” PLOS Computational Biology 3 (3): e44