I'm in the middle of my PhD and published 2 conference papers only with my supervisor, But i always want to have collaborations with other academic people in the field. Unfortunately i am a bit confused there!

  • I met people in conferences who were working on similar problems in the area, but i do not know how to initiate/request for collaboration? especially with a professor or a high level researcher.

  • Sometime when i read a paper related to my work, an idea for improvement of the proposed approach comes to my mind. But i put it somewhere in the shelf to get back to it later. But i'm not sure if it is a good idea to share it with the author or keep it to myself and work on it alone? In case of the first, should i contact the student author or the professor?

  • BTW, my field is computer science and i deal with machine learning and data analysis! so the most probable scenario which comes to my mind is getting some specific data from someone and working on that, but then it wouldn't be considered collaboration!

  • You seem to have a couple questions in the text here. On this site we aim for one question per post. Can you focus this a bit more? For your first question, see e.g., academia.stackexchange.com/q/271/19607 academia.stackexchange.com/q/3613/19607 and academia.stackexchange.com/q/6035/19607
    – Kimball
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 13:53
  • 1
    i do not know how to initiate/request for collaboration -- There's no magic bullet; you just do it. "Hi, I really enjoyed your talk. I've actually been working on similar problems; do you have some time later to talk?"
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 9:48
  • should i contact the student author or the professor? -- Yes.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 9:50

2 Answers 2


As a PhD student you are not usually required to have significant collaborations outside your school or department, although it does happen. So, if you are thinking about external collaborations, the first think you should do is talk to your advisor about it. Your advisor almost certainly has many connections in the field. Thus, they might be able to recommend someone to work with. But, they might also discourage this. You are (at least in theory) being trained by your supervisor. This gives them a greater responsibility for helping you develop your research abilities. Working with someone externally can put some of this burden onto them if your advisor isn't also involved.

For instance, I have a current PhD student that is part of an external collaboration, but I do some work to ensure that anything that we do that goes to our external collaborators is high enough quality that we aren't wasting their time. My colleague does something similar when his students work with me.

When I receive an unsolicited research request from a colleague's student, the first thing I do is contact their supervisor to see if they know about the request. I don't want to be seen as going behind their back to work with their student, and I wouldn't want someone else doing this with students I'm supervising.

  • So when i'm interested in someones data or have some idea for improvement of some other persons work, should i always CC my supervisor (and their supervisor) in the email communication?
    – Bob
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 8:31
  • @Bob If you just have a question about their work, you don't have to always cc your supervisor. But, if you are actively seeking collaboration, it is wise to keep your advisor in the loop.
    – Nathan S.
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 16:20

I am also in the middle of my PhD and have published more than 4 conference papers.

1) I tried to make a collaboration with another PhD student, whom I met in a conference. Basically, talking with them and finding out what they are doing now is a good start. I am currently discussing with a higher level researcher than me after having some online discussions in a facebook group, which I make. I try to introduce my papers and my expertise in my field, while trying to have some fruitful discussions in the group. You may also try to use researchgate to connect with other great researchers.

2) I have no experience about the second question.

3) I think that this can be considered as a collaboration. I am currently participating in a project as the researcher side with a company. The company provides data, while I and my team creates the algorithm. Then, the company will evaluate the result I get because they understand well about the practical situations and are able to give insightful comments if my results seems to be quite different with the real situation.

Hope it helps.

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