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Relationships drive collaboration in South Asia

Natalia Yang
Research Awards

What motivates researchers and funders to collaborate with different partners? “Although collaborations in research have been around for a while, there’s still a lack of understanding about what drives researchers to collaborate,” says Natalia Yang, 2017 IDRC Research Award Recipient.

She set out to discover those motivations among think tanks in South Asia. This region “provides a unique context because most countries within the region share similar challenges,” she says.

Yang found that the drive to collaborate depended on the role partners played in the organization. For example, researchers focused on what they were able to offer and gain from the collaboration — enhanced skills and access to new knowledge, for example, and stronger networks.

Principal investigators, coordinators, and funders were more concerned with how the collaboration contributed to obtaining and sharing knowledge, such as building a regional or international dialogue. Funders also saw collaboration as a way to attract other funders to a cause they believed in.

Overall, she says, she learned that “behind any research there is a human element that needs to be recognized and supported. Understanding collaboration in research is also about revealing the relationships at work behind anything we do.”

Yang values the experience she gained in research, including learning that “it’s better not to overthink the steps I have to do as a researcher. Often, the best thing to do is to just act and have the flexibility to adjust and adapt to new circumstances and research issues that did not come to light before.”

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