Scientists collaborate frequently. Most science articles have at least two authors.
Some collaborations work well, others fail. The first step to understanding what went wrong is to categorize the collaboration. I distinguish three types:
- Hierarchical collaboration: the student collaborates with his supervisor, the researcher collaborates with his manager. This form of collaboration is usually long-lived. It usually depends on the available funding and is usually more conservative in nature. The lower you are in the hierarchy, the more you work, usually.
- Symmetric collaboration: two mathematicians write papers by exchanging conjectures over email. This form of collaboration does not scale well to large numbers: the communication overhead grows quadratically.
- Topical collaboration: a philosopher writes a paper with a software engineer to describe the philosophy of software engineering. This form of collaboration can suffer from communication problems. The collaboration is usually project-centered. It might be risky research. I would expect this form of collaboration to be especially fruitful. Oddly enough, I cannot think of any famous example of topical collaboration in science.
See also The lonely researcher: a loser?