Say a student X is a visiting research student under Prof Y, where Y is not the full-time supervisor of X. Student X will be working with Y for 3-months under an international research exchange program. X. Student X facilitates the funding, bringing expertise in a field unknown to Y, and Y has the expertise that is entirely new to X. The idea is to use them both in an application. X proposed the original idea to Y.

My questions are: (1) What is expected of X in everyday research? Is X supposed to learn what is known to Y and then bring together the ideas him/herself alone with occasional "I can't understand this part" questions? (2) What can X expect out of a collaboration? What is reasonable to ask Y? e.g. is it reasonable for X to ask Y that s/he will not learn the field of Y? (3) Can X expect some PostDocs in the Y's group to join the ranks and get along with the project? There is a paper possible if everything goes well.

1 Answer 1


Sorry, but I'm afraid you can't "expect" anything at all. What can you expect when you bring two random people, unknown to each other, together for a "project"?

It is a matter of negotiation and judgement. You have to figure out before you agree to any such arrangement what the roles and responsibilities of each party will be. And everyone needs to buy in to the arrangement - with enthusiasm. That last bit is where judgement comes in to play. Lukewarm acceptance isn't likely to last. Pairing up with someone already too busy isn't likely to be successful.

Some arrangements such as you describe can be successful, but it requires enthusiastic buy-in from all parties. In particular, don't expect buy-in from third parties, such as post-docs who have their own projects and careers to think about.

If you have certain "needs" from others, then you need to make them explicit and listen carefully to the response.

If you don't get true buy-in from everyone essential, then you can "expect" to be disappointed. Alternatively, expect that it is all on you to make progress. That can actually work in some cases.

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