How we collaborate

Written by Ruth AhnertJune 14, 2019Comments: 0

This is the first in an occasional series called How we collaborate. As Principle Investigator (in academic jargon, the lead researcher on a funded project), one aspect of the project that I am most excited about is the radical form of collaboration that we’re proposing.

For most of us it is the first time of working in a team of this size and diversity. Most of our team are based at The Alan Turing Institute (the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence) and the British Library, which already gives you a sense of our disciplinary and professional breadth. But with our collaborators from the Universities of Cambridge, Exeter, East Anglia and London (QMUL) we number 22 members including data and computer scientists, historians, library curators, computational linguists, digital humanists, a data and content manager, a rights assurance manager, and a project manager.

We believe that the combination of different skills and knowledge can create something that is greater than the sum of those disciplinary parts. However, to collaborate meaningfully we need to confront and overcome different kinds of assumptions about how research is done, shared, and communicated. We have our own disciplinary languages that might mean very little to people from other fields. Some of the team have never collaborated or co-authored before. Others have never worked with historical sources or delivered large software projects. There will be lots of new experiences and encounters for everyone on the team.

So what do we mean by ‘radical collaboration’? From the outset the Living with Machines project has been specifically structured to ensure cross-disciplinary contributions at every stage, from the development of the intellectual question, to the design of the project and effective delivery. The ‘Labs’ formed around research questions are designed to encourage close interaction between disciplines, and public participation and outreach will be integrated into research deliverables rather than coming at the end.

In this series of blog posts we want to share some of the ways we are trying to create a shared research culture. These include writing a Project Charter that lays out our shared values, and forming Labs around key research interests that seek to combine different sets of skills and knowledge. One of the key values for our collaboration is that we want to share the lessons we are learning so that others can benefit from our experiences, both the good and the bad. We are dedicated to sharing both the things that work, and the things that don’t, and how we have managed to move past them.

We look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Our Funder and Partners