I am a new doctoral candidate of information and computer science and about to initiate my research, and typically collaborate with my supervisor and other group members. But seldom will a researcher limit his collaborators to those within the department he's in; he has to enlarge his network. I believe energetically participating in academic activities/events surely brings benefit. As a student, my quick thoughts are, for example, applying for internships at some research institutes, summoning team members for contests, or taking part in open source projects. Can you kindly share other experiences?
Of course, you’ll get there by engaging in a lot of activities where you will meet new people and work with people who will learn to know you. I recommend choosing them according to a few criteria:
- Activities of a seemingly technical (or practical) nature. As a PhD student, you probably don't want to be on boring committees, board-style meetings, interdepartmental seminars. You will meet people, but not in a way that fosters collaboration. (However, you may want to attend these events for other purposes. Meeting key people involved in hiring decisions at a given institution is one such purpose that comes to mind.)
- Informal settings. This favors meeting new people and getting to know them much better. Favor small meetings over big ones. Aim for a few persons you want to meet. Identify people you would like to approach (at a big event), then check what events they attend.
- Manage to invite people for talks at your institution. Okay, this one might be a bit difficult for a PhD student in some places, but if you can manage to get someone invited for a day or two, get him to give a talk and discuss your research and his, it will be worth it.
- Do not shy away from “learning” events: tutorials, “hands-on with XXX library” type of things.
All in all, I think the kind of events you want to engage in are:
- Open source projects: you listed that one already
- Workshops close to your research topic: these typically involve few people and long discussions. Many of my strongest collaborations (and a few friendships) grew out of workshops.
- Tutorials organized on topics related, but not too close, to your research: you will learn stuff, meet people in a relaxed setting. Don't be shy of going to workshops where you already know some of the stuff, if only to put it in practice and discuss with the best experts. Also, be ready to present your own work and identify convergences with lecturers and other participants.
You might consider engaging with scholars whose interests overlap yours via digital arenas as well. Although the degree to which people in a given field varies by specialty, I'd be surprised if there aren't at least a few people in your niche of information and CS who use informal digital spaces to share work in progress, ask each other questions, and communicate about opportunities such as conferences and grants. For example, you might explore:
- Blogging and commenting on others' blogs: Start writing short, regular posts about academic questions on your mind or scholarly endeavors on which you've been working. Do short reviews of interesting books and articles you've been reading, or use the space to be thoughtful about what it means to be a Ph.D. student in your field. Leave meaningful comments and questions on the blogs of others in your field, or respond to these posts with a blog post of your own (linking to the other person's post both as a matter of etiquette and because many bloggers automatically get trackback notifications of ho's been linking to their posts).
- Using Twitter as a Scholar: Twitter isn't just for sharing photos of what you ate for lunch! Ryan Cordell provides some excellent advice on getting started using Twitter professionally and effectively. Use Twitter to share the links to those blog posts you've been writing (see previous bullet), cite intriguing articles you've been reading on the web, or ask questions of scholars whose work you admire. If your department doesn't have anyone already using Twitter for academic ends, you might try searching Twitter with some applicable hashtags (e.g. #computers? #infosci? some more specific terms?), following anyone who tweets about these topics and seems to be saying interesting things, and also check out who those people are themselves following. Many people use the Twitter setting that automatically notifies them when they have a new follower, so be sure to fill out your Twitter bio to create the professional impression you desire (e.g. what school are you at? what topics do you study?). Finally, consider asking interesting questions via Twitter and curating the responses via a service like Storify.
I am a biochem post-doc and just tried projectnudge.com for this exact situation. The site appears to be beta testing social science collaborations. I was told my posting will appear on the site soon when they start releasing the science collaboration proposals.
In the humanities, at least, websites like academia.edu are useful for following research trends and for connecting (and "following") the work of others. I've found it especially useful both for meeting folks with similar interests, and, when I've presented in or organized panels at conferences, for putting a face to someone's name while also seeing what else they get into.