by Quentin Vicens and Philip E Bourne:
Scientific research has always been a collaborative undertaking, and this is particularly true today. For example, between 1981 and 2001, the average number of coauthors on a paper for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U S A rose from 3.9 to 8.4. Why the increase? Biology has always been considered the study of living systems; many of us now think of it as the study of complex systems. Understanding this complexity requires experts in many different domains. In short, these days success in being a biologist depends more on one’s ability to collaborate than ever before. The Medical Research Centers in the United Kingdom figured this out long ago, and the new Janelia Farm research campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the United States has got the idea, as it strongly promotes intra- and inter-institutional collaborations.
Given that collaboration is crucial, how do you go about picking the right collaborators, and how can you best make the collaboration work? Here are ten simple rules based on our experience that we hope will help. Additional suggestions can be found in the references. Above all, keep in mind that these rules are for both you and your collaborators. Always remember to treat your collaborators as you would want to be treated yourself—empathy is key.