Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Collaborate, Good Times, Come On!

It might not say the best for my graduate career thus far that I didn't really have an appreciation for collaboration until today. Thus far, I have only "collaborated" with my advisor (who discusses ideas and tells me what analyses to run), her former post-doc (who discusses ideas and tells me what analyses to run), and assorted undergraduate students (who I had to tell ideas to and run analyses for). Which means that it never mattered how many people were involved in a project, it was always me turning the data into digestible information. "Collaborators" meant people I was responsible for reporting to or people I was responsible for guiding. Aside from having other people (undergrads) to collect the data, it has never meant a decrease in the effort involved.

My current project actually involves a collaboration with another graduate student. I did the programming and collect the data, but it was his idea originally. Thus far, "collaboration" has again been based entirely on a handful of discussions, since we had no data worth mentioning. There were, however, many data files that could be analyzed that hadn't been. These are Excel files, which each contain the neighborhood of 3,500 to 4,000 rows of data. Knowing that these would have to be analyzed, I set aside a day of spring break to dedicate to the problem. Or, at least, to learning how to script in Excel so that I could have any hope of analyzing the data.

I emailed my collaborating grad student just to make sure I had some idea of what we wanted to analyze. And, lo and behold - send me the data, I'll put together the analysis script. This should have been an obvious reaction. C. actually has experience with scripting and these types of data files in particular; what would take me several days will take him - well, far less; I'm sure it might still be a day's work in there, depending on how cooperative the technology is. It's entirely reasonable, and thus all the more insane that it didn't occur to me that a "collaborator" would do more than give me a few tips on how to handle the list of things I would need to take care of.

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