Many research groups are international. While I hope that academics are in general open-minded and tolerant, there might still be a potential for conflicts when researchers from different ethnic groups, which are hostile towards each other or are even at war, work together in the same group.

As a head of the research group, what measures can I take to prevent such conflicts from affecting the work of the group?

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    Is this a theoretical situation or have you actually encountered it? – Szabolcs Dec 11 '14 at 19:25
  • @Szabolcs Fortunately I haven't encountered any such conflicts so far. I was asking because I have a student from a southern asian country and will now get another one from a different southern asian country. I wasn't sure whether there's conflict potential, but now learnt that the binational relations there are not bad actually. – silvado Dec 12 '14 at 14:24
  • The fact that there is a conflict between two (ethnic) groups doesn't mean that there is going to be a conflict between two individuals. People take a different attitude when they get to know each other personally. I have seen this even in a case when there was a war between the two countries ... It is very possible that two group members won't like each other, but it is unlikely to be mainly due to a conflict between the wider groups they belong to. It won't require a different handling than any other conflict in the group. There's no need to worry about it. – Szabolcs Dec 12 '14 at 15:03

One of the advantages of being the head of a research group is that your position should give you a great opportunity to set the tone of the working environment for the group.

The first key to establishing a healthy research group is setting a good example. Try to be open about your views and encourage good interactions, and be careful not to implicitly support bad behavior by appearing to condone poor treatment or opposition to ideas based on who they come from rather than their merits. Your group will take cues from your behavior, which to some degree will implicitly define what is and isn't acceptable in your group.

Try to be proactive about including everyone.

Make sure your students and researchers are aware that one of the minimum requirements for participation in the group is that people treat each other with courtesy and respect. Unless it's a political science research group, politics and conflicts between ethnic groups should be tabled. It's understandable for people to have differences, but you should try to make it clear that your group is not the place to hash out wider conflicts.

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    Concerning "politics and conflicts between ethnic groups should be tabled": You mean "tabled" in the U.S. sense, not the British sense. (The two senses are almost opposite.) – Andreas Blass Dec 12 '14 at 16:00
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    @AndreasBlass - I mean that conflicts should be temporarily set aside in the context of the research group. I wasn't aware that there was a separate British connotation of the term "tabled". – dionys Dec 14 '14 at 10:18

Try to mix up your groups with different ethnics, don't let subgroups consist just of the same ethnic. give out the target to check for possible different approaches to the problem based on an ethnic background. if there is more than one approach to the problem, based on ethnics (or maybe just any other reason) have the whole group vote on which approach would be most effective and should be used.

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    It seems like a group vote would be a poor way to make decisions regarding most research questions and how to pursue them. – dionys Dec 12 '14 at 14:20
  • Why would that be a poor decision? You are just claiming something without reason. – Dieter05 Dec 17 '14 at 10:41

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