, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 495-503

Dear Doc: advice for collaborators

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ABSTRACT

Years ago, when Doc was a junior faculty member she became aware of a situation that changed her life. An extremely well-known senior scientist in her department took the data of a graduate student and published it in a very significant, oft-cited paper without crediting the student in any way. That this action had the tacit approval of the department chair was confusing. Dismayed by this violation of trust and feeling powerless to intervene, she decided to become the Dear Abby of Science. Working in the lab during the day she was becoming a world-renowned researcher as well as a highly revered mentor to younger scientists. At night, disguised as Dr. Doc she began advising other researchers who were looking for help with their sticky situations. As word of mouth spread about Doc more and more researchers sought out her advice about a wide range of problems in their labs and in their collaborations. She is currently entertaining a proposal from a collaborative group of editors from high-impact journals to develop a web presence that would offer insightful advice to struggling scientific collaborators around the world. The following is a selection of letters from Doc’s files focused on collaboration. The names and details in the letters have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Implications

Researchers: Attending to trust, vision and setting expectations will enable a collaborative team to focus more on the science and less on conflict
Practitioners: Establishing collaborative and pre-tenure agreements provides a scaffold for interpersonal and organizational trust
Policymakers: Institutional messages and communications must align with review and reward structure