How to Make the Best of It
By Ekaterina Dobryakova, PhD
In science and other fields, team work is very important. Team work means that each member contributes something to fulfill the overarching goal, a particular piece of a puzzle to complete the mosaic, to make the gestalt.
In a grant proposal or even in an IRB application, usually roles each person fulfills on a project are outlined. Assignment of tasks on a project is one of the primary roles of the Principal Investigator (PI). When you are at the early stages of your career, you do not have to worry about that responsibility, as you are usually part of the team and what you have to do on the project is determined by the PI. But as you grow in the field, at some point it will be your responsibility to assemble that team for the IRB and write up that grant proposal. And what if you find yourself in a situation where you and your friend come up with a project, the equipment is there, and you run some subjects to get pilot data? Below are a few things and benefits of being part of a team.
Communication – As in every field, including rehabilitation and science, communication is key. That is, communication between team members to figure out who is responsible for completion of a particular piece of the puzzle. Thus, even if you are part a team, do not assume that the responsibilities and roles about who is doing what are clear to others on the team because on other projects they did this one specific thing and you want them to do the same on your project. If you are under a PI who did not initiate a conversation about it, discuss and clarify your responsibilities.
Timing – This leads us to another caveat of team work. You need to discuss responsibilities as early as possible so that by the end of the project you don’t end up thinking that your colleague was doing data analysis that he or she thought you will be doing. Things should be discussed at the earliest stages of a project.
Being perceived as a good collaborator – Being part of a team definitely gives a lot of experience but that doesn’t mean that you have to get involved in every team project offered to you. Choose wisely. The ability to choose might also depend on the stage of your career, but you have to try and think how each project will look on your CV that has to tell a cohesive story rather then be full of random one-time projects.
Communication – While communicating your needs might be difficult and intimidating, this is a skill you need to learn sooner rather than later. In addition, through communication with your team members you might discover new ideas that can blossom into new projects. That means new potential funding and publications, and one more line on your expanding CV.
Timing – Being part of a team or having a team also means that one project can get completed faster than the project where all responsibilities are on you. That means potentially less stress and more projects that you can dedicate your time and effort on.
Being perceived as a good collaborator – Being part of a team gives a lot of experience on how to communicate with people, manage your time and effort and can actually expose you to new people and opportunities, thus expanding your network. After successfully completing a project, word can travel fast that you are good to work with and thus you can get invited to more teams and projects.