How to find Collaborators or Make Yourself Available as a Collaborator on an Existing Project?
There are many ways to both find potential collaborators and to make it known
that you are available to collaborate on an existing project. One very important
aspect of finding potential collaborators is to be well versed in what others are
doing in fields that are of interest to you or that are complementary to your area
of research. Here are a few ways to meet potential collaborators:
1. Look into what others are doing at your university or at near by
universities and make contact with the researchers that you find most
interesting and feel joint projects could be possible.
2. Attend conferences and workshops in your area, and its boundaries, to
get an idea of the national research landscape – smaller conferences
and workshops are excellent venues for initiating new collaborations.
3. Attend departmental and University-wide seminars in the area that you
would like to find a collaborator. Be sure to interact with the speakers
to find out if there is a potential fit for joining forces. When speakers
are invited in from outside your University, try to get a time slot on their
itinerary so that you can speak with them about the specifics of your
4. Invite people whose work is of interest to you to speak in a small,
informal settings where exploratory projects/ideas can be presented –
brown bag lunch seminars, journal clubs, special topic working groups
5. Seek advice from senior colleagues who can direct you to an expert
with an open mind and an interest in new challenges. This works
especially well if you are seeking scientific collaborations.
In order to let others know that you are available as a collaborator, it is important
to be highly visible and to market yourself and your research. Having an update-
to-date, informative website is extremely important. If you are seeking scientific
collaborations, you may also want to consider attending and presenting your
work at the conferences and meetings that those scientists typically attend.
Choosing the right collaborator:
Once you have a list of potential collaborations, identifying the right person
or scientific group for collaboration is the key to a productive and enjoyable
experience. Take time to find a person or group that you get along well with
and that has the patience to handle the many twists and turns a collaboration
can take. Two criteria that are important to consider when choosing the right
collaborator are: (1) enthusiasm for the subject of the collaboration, and (2)
open-mindedness and curiosity.
Being visible is one of the best ways to find collaborators and make yourself available as a collaborator. Attend conferences and give solid and enthusiastic talks on your work. Include open questions that would attract potential collaborators. Before the conference, look up who is going to attend and brush up on some of their work that interests you. Make a point of talking with people with whom you have common research interests.
Contact mathematicians at other universities and ask if you could come and give a talk on subject A. Mention that you are interested in the work of certain person(s) at that university and would like to meet them. Usually the organizer of a seminar will be happy to have another speaker. Be willing to speak without being paid if you are volunteering to give a talk. Often the organizer will offer to pay for travel anyway, if it is not too far. When starting out, I did not know that one could volunteer to speak at other institutions. Later I found out that many people do this and are quite welcomed as speakers. It has never backfired and has opened many doors.
Think about what projects you would like to work on and contact some experts in the field. This is best done in person at a conference or meeting, but can also be done via email.
A post-doc can be a great time to build collaborations. Many senior mathematicians are enthusiastic about collaborating with post-docs, since this is a time when people are open to new ideas and are sure to be working hard. Work with those you are around, even if it means learning new areas of mathematics. Learning new areas can also improve your reputation and marketability.
Do not take rejection to heart. If some people are off-putting about collaborating with you, don't believe for a minute that you are not good enough. Keep looking for other collaborators whom you can learn from and who will value your contributions. They are out there.