Adesh K Saini is a Professor at Center of Research for Himalayan Sustainability and Development at Shoolini University, Solan, Himachal Pradesh. He participated as a PDF in YIM2011. Here, he shares his views about the importance of collaboration in science.
Decades ago when I was a PhD student at CSIR-IGIB in Yogendra Singh’s Laboratory, I routinely collaborated with experts outside of my niche area of research in mycobacteriology. My interactions with biophysicists and chemists, led to my fist paper which was co-authored by researchers from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and University of Delhi apart from my parent institute IGIB. More recently, when I started my independent lab at Shoolini University, Solan (HP, India) my collaborations with Prof Christine Winterborn, Centre for Free Radical Research, Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand and Prof Venki Ramakrishnan, the Nobel Laureate at MRC, UK, helped me access resources that were vital in establishing my lab. Collaborations have repeatedly helped me drive my career on a success trajectory. This is not only true for me but scientists across the globe.
World over, collaborations are making it possible for scientists to tackle scientific challenges that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Collaborations are no longer limited to the lab next door or the college friend in another university. Multi-country consortia are being formed solve scientific puzzles. Such alliances lead to better resource utility, higher consistency, and most importantly they deliver a technology which has a global application and acceptance. They also help create high-quality regional research labor force which is instrumental in boosting the regional economy and development.
Tangible benefits for all members involved in a collaboration can be created by granting co-authorship to all involved. This trend is clearly on a rise. Take for example the International Rice Genome Project or Tomato Genome Consortium aiming to accelerate improvements in rice or tomato production where more than 100 researchers from various countries including India, Japan, USA, Philippines, China and Republic of Korea worked together. Similarly, in other areas of sciences – like in Physics– discovery of the Higgs Boson particle at the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, Switzerland bagged Nobel Prize in 2013. Clearly, researchers are shifting the landscape of collaboration from local to global.
Many research projects focusing on grand challenges are appreciably funded by various programs of United Nations, World Health Organisation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institutes of Health, regional Government agencies and others. Among Indian funding agencies, the Department of Biotechnology, Department of Science & Technology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and various Ministries in Government of India, promote joint international projects in various areas of energy, food security, societal development, technology and education. They also support the joint workshops, seminars, frontiers symposia, exhibitions, exploratory visits and lectures by eminent scientists. Because of these endeavours, India has bilateral science and cooperation agreement with more than 80 countries. Support from these agencies is helping Indian researchers to develop linkages with research groups outside India. This, in turn is helping improve India’s profile in global research rankings and foster meaningful alliances with industry.
Social media, especially the kind that caters exclusively to an academic audience, has fuelled this trend by making it easy to establish such connections. It is through websites like, ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook that researchers share their profile, research papers, discuss ideas and even solve specific problems. It’s been reported that up to 2014 more than 4.5 million researchers have signed up for ResearchGate and around 10 thousand arrive every day. Besides this, academic activities like international conferences and workshops also help develop alliances. Advancements in the area of mass communication facilities including face-to-face interactions have enormously contributed in creating this shift from “lone” to “team” approach.
In India, where we need to manage our limited resources and funds in a way to provide solutions to a battery of challenges, ranging, from poverty to climate change, collaborations within the country and with the outside world can help us develop a sustainable model for developing novel technologies and doing better science.