I am a first year graduate student in a completely theoretical field. How does one go about collaborating online or otherwise with researchers from other institutes/universities? In particular, if I am interested in a problem or an area which is not very well represented at my current institution, how do I approach researchers from other institutes to start a collaboration assuming I have the basic background to start research? Should I have a very particular problem/idea in mind while contacting a potential collaborator, or is it unusual if I approach a researcher just because I am interested in his work and would like to learn more and work on it with no particular problem in mind?
I have found that it is very difficult to start collaborating with people who are totally new to you. Some good ways to find people to collaborate with are:
- Tapping into your PhD/PostDoc advisor's existing contact network
- Using your advisor's status/fame to get new collaborators (i.e., the advisor handles the initial contact)
- Giving talks in conferences and getting people excited about your work.
- Talking to people in conferences and finding some common interests for new projects.
I write this as a PhD student with experience in collaborating within physics/chemistry communities.