How to initiate collaboration in science… with anyone!

You have read someone’s work and you have ideas about how to extend their work. You are also interested in working with them on your ideas? Or maybe you just want a copy of their latest work? Or some other favor? How do you go about it?

The old way was to get introduced by a colleague, or to go talk to them during a conference. While the old ways still work, I have found an effective and cheaper short-cut: just email them! (Presumably, Twitter and Facebook might work as well.)

You have to structure your email properly, it must be short, and it must be researched. The object of your email, and the first few sentences should include:

  • The title of at least one of their research papers.
  • Specific reasons why you are interested in this work.
  • A brief description of who you are.
  • What you want. Be specific.

My emails get answered at a rate of 70% to 80% when I use this strategy. It does not matter how important or busy the person is. It works because I show interest in the person’s work.


Update. Jo Vermeulen points me to a classic reference on this topic: Networking on the Network.

Daniel Lemire, "How to initiate collaboration in science… with anyone!," in Daniel Lemire's blog, April 20, 2009.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

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