While collaboration is key to innovation, most scientists receive little or no formal training in how to work together. Instead, many of us rely on interpersonal intuition to build a lab team. Conferences extend the reach of the lab, and, if one can meet and connect with the right people, then labs can work together. The result is an informal, arbitrary, and often static network of connections that may be productive and innovative.
But what about those investigators unintentionally left behind?
NSF’s Research Coordination Networks (RCN) offer a framework for building and curating intentionally diverse teams that include domestic and international investigators.
To advance a field, the RCN supports the collaborative processes of communication and coordination across “… disciplinary, organizational, geographic and international boundaries.” With an emphasis on new initiatives and ideas, the RCN program gives investigators a chance to learn new ways to build collaborations for research and education.
Proposals to the program present the strategy to build a domestic or global collaborative network. A successful RCN recognizes the missing “ingredients” – the people, and approaches needed. For example, to grapple with the complexities of organismal integration at the level of the whole organism, RCN PIs Dianna Padilla and Kendra Greenlee recognized the need for cross-disciplinary approaches and people. Their RCN brings together organismal biologists with applied mathematicians, engineers, and modelers. Collaborations and cross-training are the hallmarks of their approach, which is realized in the Organismal Systems Modeling Network (organismal-systems.org/, IOS-1754949).
Not meant to fund collaborative research directly, but instead connect researchers around a common theme, a successful RCN also requires a dedicated organizer, someone who has the drive to learn how to build collaborations across disparate disciplines and the desire to lead by facilitation of others.
For help getting started, reach out to IOS’s RCN contact, John Long (email@example.com).