Do you remember the first group of friends you met at school? Chances are you do – as a species, and even from a very early age, we are drawn to form communities and social groups. Collaboration and communication are two of the key skills we’re learning even before we can walk.
The need to form groups is so ingrained in us that the effects of isolation on the human psyche are stark – studies have shown that we’re dramatically affected by perceived social isolation, and that it “is a risk factor for, and may contribute to, poorer overall cognitive performance, faster cognitive decline” and many other negative traits. In other words, it’s important not to be isolated.
But how does this translate into our working life, and specifically the working life of an academic researcher?
As researchers, we form lasting mentor-apprentice relationships throughout our early career; beginning as the apprentice and moving on to mentoring as we develop our skills and experience. I expect that in addition to being able to name our childhood friends, we can all name our early mentors and our first apprentices. With scientific research also becoming more international and more collaborative, how do our wider collaborations – especially the larger projects that span national and international boundaries – fit into this social picture?