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October 9, 2007

Thoughts on Collaboration in Higher Education

Our College is working hard to create an environment where multidisciplinary work is valued, supported, and encouraged. This multidisciplinary work requires collaboration. Due to some recent events, I've begun to realize that there are some barriers to collaboration that should be addressed. I have no answers right now, but I'd like to explain the barriers, as I see them.

Sharing the credit: In higher education, an individual's career rests heavily on her/his reputation. This reputation is built through the hard work of obtaining grants, publishing, and speaking. But you can only do these things if you have: GOOD IDEAS (or at least unique ideas!); ideas that make you stand out and be seen as someone advancing the field.

So, everything revolves around ideas, and credit for those ideas. Collaboration requires that you share those good ideas before you get a chance to obtain grants, publish, or speak about them. By sharing, you're risking that someone else will take these ideas and take credit for them through their own grants, publications, and presentations. This has been happening to me frequently lately, and I'm not happy about it. The fear of losing credit for your own ideas motivates people to keep ideas to themselves.

I will continue to share my ideas and try to collaborate with others because I think it's the right thing to do. I think the key here is to design a way for people to be able to share, yet retain the credit that is due to them. But how to do this? This is the answer that I said I don't have. I'll have to think about this.