A guide to research collaboration - LERU Summer School


The LERU Doctoral Summer School 2019 was hosted in Edinburgh, where participants used their combined knowledge to create a best practice guide for international research collaborations.

Research has always been a collaborative endeavour, but activities of institutions and funders to create new partnerships across disciplines is growing, as the demand for multi-disciplinary, international solutions to global issues increases.

The LERU Doctoral Summer School embraced the need, paving the way to develop excellence in research collaborations. The week, organised by the Institute for Academic Development and Edinburgh Global, firstly offered a chance for early-career researchers to enhance their understanding of the importance of international partnerships and networks. But more than that, it offered the chance to put principles into practice – the co-authoring of a ‘Collaboration Guide’ using their collective experiences and knowledge, course work and research experts’ advice.

With 52 researchers, representing 25 universities in 16 countries, and covering dozens of disciplines the programme in Edinburgh was a meeting of minds, combining diverse skills and knowledge. What better platform to devise a collaboration guide for peers than this collective effort?

Leru Summer School Ceilidh 1

A blueprint for collaboration

During the course of the week, summer school participants worked alongside an experienced author of research skills guides and a graphic designer to produce the guide. The journey had begun even before they arrived - each interviewed a research expert from their own university to provide a specialist foundation of content to advance from.

Covering start-to-finish aspects of working collaboratively - from motivations, challenges and support to agreements, industry engagement and cultural factors - the guide is a legacy for the summer school, offering an open resource for others to make the most of their research opportunities; it’s now published under Creative Commons, available for use in the research community.

Alongside working on the collaboration guide, much of the week’s itinerary mimicked many aspects of it, with input from experts via the experienced academics involved, support from an enthusiastic team from Edinburgh Global, and exposure to some fine Scottish culture at a whisky tasting and ceilidh, complete with a kilted piper!

Research Collaborations - A guide for early career researchers

The guide covers these topics:

•   Motivations for Collaborations
•   Opening Doors
•   Success Factors
•   Challenges of Collaborations
•   Support for Collaborations
•   Partnership Agreements
•   Partners Beyond Academia
•   Cultural Dimensions
•   Key Insights
•   Top Tips
•   Do it Yourself

Download the guide

Video highlights

A vision for European partnerships

With the UK poised to leave the European Union, the significance of the activities of the summer school are clear: setting aside politics, the need and the desire for continued research collaboration are widely shared across institutional partners and networks - and of course, the researchers themselves. It’s clear from the friendships formed. It’s clear from the teamwork and effort. It’s clear from the professionalism and expertise. It’s clear from the lasting legacy they’ve created.

And the University is clear on that too. Being an active member of LERU - an association of leading European research-intensive universities - highlights how our research community plays an invaluable part in strengthening partnerships and creating opportunities between UK and European institutions via high-quality teaching and knowledge exchange.

Overall it’s clear – the Summer School was a valued opportunity, for the experiences and gains for those who attended, and it will continue to be valued by others starting out on their paths in international collaborative research through the effective guidance they created.

By Lorna Bruce

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