Do Your Homework

Posted on February 28, 2006

Oscar A. Barbarin (bio) advises those who are interested in international collaborations to learn as much as they can about potential partners.

 

There are many things to learn about before undertaking a research collaborative. The first is to find out, to do your homework. Find out about the country. Read. Right now there's no excuse, because so much information is available on the web, so much is available in books, so much is available in universities with colleagues. Do your homework, read about the country, read about the issues, particularly if you're doing social research or development. Try to understand the context of development.

The second thing is learn practical things about the country. If you're going to go over and do work there, learn about its currency, learn about its economy, learn about the transportation system, learn the language if you have to, at least become familiar enough to be conversant. Making an effort to show some familiarity will pay off both in terms of the relationship that you're able to develop, because you do show an interest, as well as the degree of effectiveness in being able to move around, your own sense of not being totally dependent on other people, of being able to have some degree of independence and confidence when you travel.

A lot of people when they travel to a foreign country for the first time often have a lot of anxiety, I certainly did, in the unknown. The more work you do up front, the more you can manage the anxiety and the tension.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in April 2005.

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