The Search for Collaborators

Academics these days are told that we need to collaborate on our research as well as our teaching. Apart from working in teams and sharing resources I’m not sure how collaboration works in teaching. But there is one aspect of collaboration in teaching that has much greater certainty than research collaborations do and that is in who your collaborators are. By and large, the people you collaborate with in teaching are those who work in the same university as yourself on a full-, part-time or casual basis. With research your collaborators could be your colleagues or anyone else who has a similar research interests. Theoretically, research collaboration has greater latitude. The problem is finding and getting to know these collaborators.

So where does one begin to look for would-be research partners?

Well, you talk to lots of people. You sound them out on their interests. You ask your friends, your colleagues. You spend hours, days and months building up relationships. Sometimes you get lucky and make new friends along the way, other times you find out how defensive, status-aware and egoistical a lot we can be. You can also get heartily sick of seeking, especially when your heart and mind is itching to work on a research idea. Still, you must persist.

If you’re lucky and finally find someone with a similar research agenda and general approach who is both able and willing to work with you, you then start looking for ways to work jointly. Sometimes, even a good partnership may take a while to get going or fail to win the funding that allow time for research.

Over the years I’ve written papers with a few partners but am still looking to find that perfect partnership that will work through project after project or one long project. I’ve just sent another probe out into the universe today. An exploratory email that may get somewhere or nowhere. Who knows what makes these things work? When I find out, I’ll let you know.


I'm a research fellow at an Australian university where I work on a number of projects. These include projects to do with new media and migration and the Chinese diaspora in Australia, projects on the Malaysian internet, ethno-religious issues in Singapore and Malaysia. And, before I forget many of the photos I use on this site were taken by my sister, Jessie and myself. All rights are reserved.