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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 51  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 137--139

Collaborative research in modern era: Need and challenges

Seema Bansal, Saniya Mahendiratta, Subodh Kumar, Phulen Sarma, Ajay Prakash, Bikash Medhi 
 Department of Pharmacology, PGIMER, Chandigarh, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Bikash Medhi
Department of Pharmacology, PGIMER, Chandigarh - 160 012

How to cite this article:
Bansal S, Mahendiratta S, Kumar S, Sarma P, Prakash A, Medhi B. Collaborative research in modern era: Need and challenges.Indian J Pharmacol 2019;51:137-139

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Bansal S, Mahendiratta S, Kumar S, Sarma P, Prakash A, Medhi B. Collaborative research in modern era: Need and challenges. Indian J Pharmacol [serial online] 2019 [cited 2023 Mar 23 ];51:137-139
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Most critically important scientific issues or innovative technologies can often be solved by working together of team of researchers from different backgrounds. The merging of different fields can make possible achieving of incredible goals. Collaborative research, therefore, can be defined as research involving coordination between the researchers, institutions, organizations, and/or communities. This cooperation can bring distinct expertise to a project. Collaboration can be classified as voluntary, consortia, federation, affiliation, and merger and can occur at five different levels: within disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary, trans-disciplinary or national vs international. Collaborative research has the capabilities for exchanging ideas across disciplines, learning new skills, access to funding, higher quality of results, radical benefits, and personal factors such as fun and pleasure.

 Need of Collaborative Research

Collaboration encourages the establishment of effective communication and partnerships and also offers equal opportunities among the team members. It honors and respects each member's individual and organizational style. Collaboration also increases the ethical conduct maintaining honesty, integrity, justice, transparency, and confidentiality.

 Why Collaboration Required

Increased collaborations can save considerable time and money, and most often, breakthrough research comes through collaborative research rather than by adhering to tried and true methods. Further legislation, industry, and academia encouraged the collaboration between private sector and academia (e.g., the Bayh–Dole Patent Reform Act of 1980 is the United States legislation which allowed universities to negotiate patent rights with industrial partners).

 Elements of Collaboration

Collaboration establishes channels for open communication where participants need to be encouraged to take opportunities for the renewal of the older systemsEngaging all partners and others where they should provide feedback and engage in self-reflectionThere should be an identification of stakeholders which can serve as the feedback loop as it will help better to understand cause and effectCollaboration also defines the clarity of roles and responsibilitiesTo establish a professional environment and to respect different cultures of different organizations.

 Various Forms of Collaborative Research


A mentor–mentee relationship is very crucial as the challenges experienced by the mentor will be faced by the mentees and it will be the duty of the current scientists to mentor the next generation of scientists. The mentor is responsible for holding regular meetings with mentees and to make sure that they are familiar with academic and nonacademic policies.

Collaborative research within disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary

There are different kinds of collaboration such as intradisciplinary (team of researcher within the same department), interdisciplinary (team of researcher of different departments but different background), multidisciplinary (team of researcher of different background), or transdisciplinary (involvement of people from outside academia into the research process) and everyone aspire for common demands such as making of operational plans, communication between different research groups, sharing of credit and money, holding frequent meetings, and encouraging open communications.

Miscommunications can also be caused by working among different research disciplines and can be due to different understandings about science, vocabulary, or methods. Each and every working researcher has their own perspective of working, for example, some prefer verbal agreements and some consider written contracts. On the other hand, few are in favor of publishing every new finding and others prefer a single large publication after compilation of whole data.[1]

Challenges of collaboration

Collaborations can be a frequent source of problems. This can be due to many reasons such as sharing of credit and responsibility after joining of more than two people for a common purpose. Sometimes, collaborations do not get initiated due to unwillingness of sharing or working together. Sometimes, collaborations are often spoiled because of misunderstandings among the participants due to disagreement about what and when to publish and also due to discontent with a slow collaborator.

Global contribution of Indian scientists in research

According to Research Trends (2014), among the top 20 countries, on the basis of research output, India holds the position on the 12th place, China on the 5th place, Russia on the 10th place, and Brazil on the 18th place. On the contrary, ranking based on citations, India comes in the 19th place, China in the 13th place, Russia in the 17th place, and Brazil in the 23rd place. Among the Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) countries, in terms of total number of documents produced, China leads the research output, whereas India and South Africa dominate depending on citation per document. It is also seen that South Africa is involved in a number of international collaborations, followed by Russia, Brazil, India, and China. The USA and some European countries such as the UK, Germany, France, and Italy seem to have considerable collaborations among the BRICS nation, but very little partnership is realized. Of these, India and China are active participating nations, whereas Russia and Brazil do not seem to be very enthusiastic.[2]

Even according to comparison made by the research group, India takes the lead in terms of research quality even if China produces more number of papers than India. This is on the basis of citations per article (CPA) which was an average of 2.71 between 2006 and 2010 while that for China was 2.21. It is evident that India's CPA is far below than that of the US, i.e., 6.45; however, it is shown that it is tremendously improved for India in the past 5 years. This is due to major contribution in the field of chemistry to the scientific society which is around 38% and was relatively low in health sciences (3.5%).[3]

Impact of Indian collaborative research globally

The contribution of India toward research globally is quite influential and hence has achieved the 6th rank for publication of research papers. This is growing at an annual rate of 14% and at global level at an average of 4%. India is actively involved in bilateral science and technology agreements with over 40 countries and has also participated in global megaprojects such as CERN, the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory, and Gates Grand Challenges. India also supports three science and technology centers: independent organizations established under intergovernmental bilateral agreements with France, Germany, and the USA. Moreover, the government contributes to international networks such as the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, the European Molecular Biology Organization, and the Human Frontier Science Program.

 Challenges of Collaborative Research In India

Individual challenges

There is a scarcity of competent researchers in India. Most of the researches going on in our country are not methodologically sound. As far as scholarship is considered, it is an individualized endeavor, and academic frameworks for recognition, rewards, and promotions are supposed at individual level. For the promotion and tenure process, single-authored publications are given more credit as compared to collaborative work. Intellectual property rights are the central issue and occur in various categories of members in collaborative research.

Institutional challenges

This is because of differences in different approaches among the collaborating partners. For example, if a collaboration occurs between industry and institutional level, discrepancies do occur between objectives, different hypothesis, cultural differences, and issues with technology.

Challenges regarding funds

The most important challenge is less funds granted for research to universities as compared to small elite research institutions. This leads to less focus on research and more on teaching by the universities resulting in separation of education and research. Due to funding restrictions, most of the significant work of Indian research is in theoretical domain. For example, a collaborative project was undertaken by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in which a developmental study was conducted taking 30 HIV-positive patients and 18 HIV-related service providers for understanding of sexual risk-taking HIV-related disclosure and other behavioral patterns among HIV-positive individuals in Baroda, Gujarat. Patel et al.[4] shared that it took roughly 1½ years by the Institutional Review Board at Medical College of Baroda which was already reviewed by NIH, University of North Carolina, and ICMR, and as per the guidelines of ICMR, the compensation was also reduced to 500/day from 1000.

Systematic challenges

In India, the success of the scientists is prioritized by becoming an administrative head in research institutions rather than advancing research. Furthermore, the prevalence of ineptitude among the spectrum has made incompetent scientists to strengthen their weakness.

There is a culture of elitism in our Indian laboratories, where the manual work is done by laboratory assistants and scientists mostly just command orders.[5]


After thorough understanding of collaboration, it can be assumed that language, financial commitment, inadequate regulatory frameworks, and diverse interests are among the potential challenges in collaborative research. This can be successful if the collaborators respect each other and without involving their ego and also willing to give and take constructive criticism without being defensive. To conclude, the results of these collaborations will not only be seen in specific work done at the time of collaboration but also during the professional lifetimes of scholarship and publication.


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3Rensburg I, Motala S, David SA. Opportunities and challenges for research collaboration among the BRICS nations. Compare 2015;45:814-8.
4Patel S, Baxi R, Patel S, Golin C. Challenges of collaborative research. Ind J Med Ethics 2011;8:262.
5Ross LF, Loup A, Nelson RM, Botkin JR, Kost R, Smith GR, et al. The challenges of collaboration for academic and community partners in a research partnership: Points to consider. J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics 2010;5:19-31.