New collaboration model for a field ecology lab

Paradigm shift: technology, feedback, discussion, & additional novel tweaks to experiments are productive tools only if used at appropriate times.



Collaboration through technology should be enlightening your research – not a burden.

Digital sharing tools, emails, & ubiquitous online access to info are all super things. Working as team is also great. Engaging with supervisor/student/collaborators via digital means also great. However, I have come to realize that it is easy to evolve collaborators into unproductive cycles. No need for the background, but checking emails, constant brainstorming and feedback, and touching bases with team can impede actual research activities – particularly when the research is in the field often in remote spots (i.e. when you get online you have infinite pool of emails waiting about the research you are actively doing). The analogy I have been considering is from product development wherein creativity is critical, planning critical, but at some point you stop and let the product (i.e. the field research) go and be free to succeed or fail.


New collaboration model for a lab that have field work
1. PLANNING PHASES. We meet at appropriate times that we clearly book in advance in the lab, and then, we end the infinite planning/feedback loop. Closure to planning and design stages so that you can move on.  This has the advantage of providing the students/field researchers with the space to actually do the work and succeed, fail, and adapt to it. Development and feedback from supervisor occurs only during the appropriate, planned phases. I love infinite new ideas, tweaks, experiments, and discussion but too much becomes distracting.  It is better to give space and allow people to be in the moment.

2. EMAIL, CORRESPONDENCE, & FEEDBACK. Reduce email traffic by posting updates to blog (use as lab notebook and update tool for team), the google calendar for hard and soft deadlines, and the drive for all files others need.

3. PERSONAL SPACE. Never ask for things on weekends. Research is the best job in the whole world. Flexible, fun, and challenging. However, even suggestions, let alone
requests, introduce unnecessary expectations and apply indirect pressure. Respect personal space. Research is still a job.

4. FIELD EXPEDITIONS. Plan the times when supervisor and students collaborate in field and stick to them. My PhD supervisor came only at the end of every season for five days directly to my field site. He met me where I worked. We toured around, I showed him what I did, and he never criticized.  He only made suggestions for the next season for the new experiments.

5. SAFETY. Use the Gen SPOT messenger to relay messages to the team re: safety and location. Replying to emails, texts, etc. as appropriate only as decided by field researcher.

6. PLAN FIELDSEASON FEEDBACK LOOPS. At the completion of each field expedition, plan the feedback meetings and updates with team and supervisor. Do them all at once after all materials are up on drive and safely archived. Team (& supervisor) waits till that point in time to increase efficiency, reporting progress, and collectively respects that new window for feedback & discussion before proceeding to next expedition.

7. INITIATION/TERMINATION OF EXPEDITIONS. No need for check in/check out for expeditions. Get to sites, crank, and fully commit to process. Use GPS safety device of course and use your team as needed, but you are in charge of process.