Writing a collaboration policy

Inspired by a conversation with Andy Casey who we visited at Monash University in Melbourne last week, I decided to write a Collaboration Policy, and share my feelings on the topic at our weekly group meeting.

At Monash, Andy showed me the Research Expectations page of his website, which is a document outlining the expectations he has for his students, and what their expectations might be for him. I love this idea and would like to create my own research expectations guidelines for any students working with me, current or future. As I started to write it however, I realized I wanted to write a zeroth-order expectations document first. Something a little more general, targeted at everyone I work with: a collaboration policy.

My collaboration policy document states what expectations I have for co-authors on my papers, and what they should expect from me as a co-author on their papers. It describes how I select and order co-authors, how I like the commenting and feedback procedure to go, etc.

The document also outlines an explicit policy for proposal, as well as paper, collaboration, including my definition of the responsibilities of funded and unfunded collaborators. This is something that I have found particularly difficult to navigate in the past, because proposal authorship and responsibility distribution can be delicate and political. I found it really helpful to make my expectations explicit and I’m sure it will help avoid a few awkward conversations in future.

Finally I outline my philosophy on authorship. For example, I feel strongly that “whomever does the work leads the paper”, a policy that may seem obvious but still, sadly, has to be made explicit on occasion.

This is just a first version, and there’s a lot more I’d like to add. The Astro Data group were enthusiastic about working on a collaboration policy together, and I think we’ll converge on an official version soon.

I really enjoyed writing this document. I’ll find it useful to send to my collaborators, but I also enjoyed solidifying some of my feelings and opinions on this topic. I recommend that everyone goes through this exercise!