Collaborating with Colleagues in Your Department
Finding someone in your own department to work with can be wonderful or disastrous. I know of a collaboration in which two departmental colleagues met every day over a period of several months and ended up creating quite a substantial body of very creative and influential research. They pushed each other to go in new directions. They each brought new ideas to the collaboration and were also able to bring the ideas to completion. I know of another collaboration in which one more junior colleague ended up proving all of the theorems and writing up the publications while appending the senior colleague’s name to the publications. This can be tricky business. Looking back at other people’s experiences I think it is best to have a clear understanding going into a project what each person will contribute to the project in order to share the publication record. This would be a very delicate conversation but I think it’s better to have it in near the beginning of a project rather than running into trouble later on.
If you end up collaborating with a more senior member of your department it is crucial that he or she accurately describes your contributions to the joint work in tenure, promotion, and merit raise decisions. As Dianne O’Leary stated in her response to question I.J, it is also critical to have significant papers with you as the sole author when coming up for tenure, promotion, or even merit raises.
A successful collaboration with a highly regarded departmental colleague can be helpful in retention decisions, since considerations of retaining the colleague also come into play.
The worst blow-ups of collaborative relationships I've observed were between departmental colleagues. These involved refusing to speak to or even look at each other, not temporarily but for life. I don't have an explanation, and am just raising a red flag for extra caution. I suspect this phenomenon may belong under IIIK, since these were long-term and very close collaborations; see my comments under IIIK (especially concerning credit issues).