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What is Collaborative Science? Benefits of Science Collaboration

Apr 25, 2023. News

Collaboration in science

Collaboration in science

The best thing about the internet is that it contains the collective knowledge of most of mankind. However, collective knowledge is sometimes not enough. Deprived of interpretation and creative application, raw data can only go so far. This is why collaborative science still spearheads the progress of our society.

  • Still, what is collaborative science?
  • How does collaborative research work?
  • What is the role of collaborative learning in science?

Answers to some of these questions could give you a clearer picture of this concept as a whole. Let’s try to answer at least some of these questions.

What is scientific collaboration?

The textbook definition is as simple as it gets – whenever two or more scientists work together on a problem, this is an instance of scientific collaboration. This term may seem new because you’re more accustomed to hearing terms like team-based research or academic partnerships.

Why is collaboration important in science?

To explain this further, we’ll make a metaphor comparing scientific research to physical labor (let’s say, moving furniture). If you’ve ever tried engaging in manual labor, you must know that a set of helping hands exponentially increases your efficiency (not linearly). When moving a couch, getting help doesn’t make a difference between moving it in 10 or 20 minutes. The difference is between moving the couch or not being able to move it at all.

The same thing goes with collaborative science. Different scientists have different specialties. Different fields overlap on some scientific projects, and one scientist can’t progress to the next stage without getting help from the former.

Instead of spending years acquiring one more specialization (that they may not need in the subsequent research), they can just team up with a colleague scientist.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t just happen on an individual level. Organizations are more likely to collaborate than individuals. Sometimes, this collaborative research is government-organized and funded.

What are the types of collaborative research?

Collaborative research is a loose term at its very best. This is why you can divide it in any way you like. For instance, you can split it into national and international. Inter-organizational and one within the same organization, etc. If you decide to do so, you could even classify it based on the number of people/organizations collaborating on the research.

Still, the general division goes something like this:

  • Collaboration within the institution
  • Collaboration with other institutions
  • Research collaborations with private companies
  • Collaboration based on the task expertise
  • International research collaboration

Generally speaking, these five categories cover the majority of collaborative research types.

Examples of collaboration in science

Perhaps the best-known example of scientific collaboration is the one on the International Space Station. It’s a space station run by agencies from Europe, the USA, Russia, And Japan. Chances are that this level of space technology would be impossible to achieve by either of these agencies on their own. On the other hand, they’ve been successfully running it since 1998.

CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research) is another popular example. This is perhaps the biggest stride in particle physics in human history. In other words, collaboration in science research is the only way to progress in fields in which we’ve been stuck for centuries.

Still, these are concrete examples of large-scale scientific collaboration, but what would a real-world example look like?

Take, for instance, the use of high-power lasers in material processing. For this to work, you would need people specializing in optics and lasers and people specializing in material properties and characterization working on the same project. Sometimes, it’s not just the experts you need but the actual equipment, some of which may be both rare and expensive. Organizations like LaserNetUS, provide both students and scientists with access to high-powered lasers and state-of-the-art technical capabilities such as target delivery systems, diagnostics, and analysis software for collaborative science.

What are the benefits of scientific collaboration?

As we’ve already mentioned, the growth of efficiency due to collaboration is not linear but exponential. Therefore, more can be done in a shorter amount of time. Since different specialists/departments can be delegated to different tasks, much work can be done simultaneously.

It’s also worth mentioning that not all scientific work is based on drawing conclusions by crunching numbers (data analysis). Regarding new ideas, so much revolves around creativity and problem-solving. Previously, we’ve mentioned that two experts with different specializations can benefit from collaborative research. This is true for multiple people from the same field (even the same subspecialty). After all, more people on the project means more different perspectives.

Another thing to remember is that scientific collaboration is the standard practice in the industry. It’s not an isolated phenomenon where most scientists or organizations work independently and team up on rare occasions. This is an integral part of the science world, so enhancing collaboration skills is important. Collaboration skills are sometimes as important for a project’s outcome as scientific skills.

Collaborative learning in science

The last thing we’ll address here is the collaborative approach to teaching science. Students are forced to reevaluate their ideas by having their peers challenge them. More importantly, they’re learning how to find proper arguments to defend them and then see if these arguments hold up.

One of the most important things about collaborative learning is that it prepares you for collaborative research in the future. Collaborative learning in science can be seen as a natural prerequisite to collaborative research. There's no surprise here because most research is done in a collective.

Most importantly, collaborative learning helps one improve communication and collaboration skills. This is something that will benefit a researcher regardless of their background or future academic career.

Wrap up

In the end, collaborative science is an umbrella term that describes any situation in which research is done by more than one person/party. Because collaborations are a natural part of this ecosystem, it’s impossible to imagine modern science without them.

After all, the specialization of tasks has led us to the level of civilization we enjoy today. So, there’s no surprise that the world of science operates on the same principle.

If you want to learn more about the nature of collaborative science, especially on one of the examples we’ve previously mentioned, you’re free to join us at LaserNetUS to get involved in collaborative science and research in laser technology.

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