For some years now, there has been a trend towards working as teams in school and academia. Team projects can either go quite well, or can result in one person doing most of the work while everyone else coasts by on their efforts. Curious about what really goes on “behind the scenes” in the world of collaboration in social psychology, I was eager to dive into Collaboration in Psychological Science, an edited volume by Richard L. Zweigenhaft and Eugene Borgida. The book provided an excellent overview of the benefits and risks of collaboration in science.
Zweigenhaft and Borgida brought together thirty five contributors for this book (including themselves) for an examination of just how collaboration works. Some sources say collaboration in science has more than doubled from 1990 to 2015, so their volume is a timely contribution to the field. All of the chapter authors in the book wrote their chapters collaboratively.
Zweigenhaft and Borgida have done an excellent job of demonstrating collaboration simply in putting together and editing this book. Even with a multitude of authors – each with their own unique style – there is a sense of continuity throughout. There is a consistent sense of humor, a sense of seriousness, and lots of information not only about how each collaboration came to be but also about how the studies came to be. There is much to learn about social psychology throughout the course of the book.
Of course, there are issues with collaboration, particularly in academia, and readers will see how some such issues came up for many of the teams who contributed to this book. One such issue is the tendency for a person working in collaboration to sometimes be seen as not working as hard as someone working alone. The chapter authors told stories of having projects not get done because of a group member not doing their part, and why.
And sometimes being in a team can involve even more work, such as when collaborators come from different disciplines and use different professional languages and models of experimentation. Of course, there are also many times when having different talents greatly help the creativity and efficiency of a team. One team member might be good with statistics, while the other excels in conceptualizing and writing, for instance.
Problems can also crop up when it comes to where each team member’s name will appear on the publication. Just like in Hollywood, in academia your next “role” is often contingent upon how high your name was on your last publication. The chapter authors suggested that team members should agree upon the order of names early on.
Some of the teams in the book began their collaboration during the days when manuscripts were mailed back and forth, and face-to-face time typically occurred only during conferences. These days, the Internet makes collaboration across continents and time zones much easier. 24-hour cycles of productivity are common; a team member across the world can email his or her material to a collaborator before bed, and receive their revisions upon waking up. Videoconferencing on the phone or computer are generally free nowadays, and easy to facilitate.
There is a great deal of evidence that creativity, efficiency and quality can greatly improve when you are a part of a well-functioning team, and the stories of the collaborations in this book provide so much insight into how to create such a thing. Regardless of your discipline, this is an excellent resource for learning about collaborating.
Collaboration in Psychological Science: Behind the Scenes
Edited by Richard L. Zweigenhaft and Eugene Borgida