The Value of Networking–Articulated in Terms of Extramural Funding, of Course!

It’s been quite a while since my last post, but I was taking some time to relax after finishing my MBA and to enjoy the honor of being the valedictorian. A bit of a re-boot of the systems. But today I want to wanted to get back to blogging by posting very briefly about the value of networking in terms of attracting extramural funding. It’s been on my mind a lot recently, and it’s a point that really cannot be made too frequently or too firmly.

We can get very siloed in research. It’s a natural outcome when your focus is on learning and cultivating the intellect, but the problem is that fundable extramural proposals generally require solid teams. Research proposals are business proposals, and researchers need to consider that solid businesses with millions in earnings are often built on teams, so why shouldn’t successful million-dollar research projects also require teams?

When having this discussion with researchers, sometimes the anxiety produced is palpable. I get it–the expertise needed is, almost by definition, outside of the researcher’s field, and how will they ever find it? There are many social media sites for research, including one my co-authors on a paper signed me up for, Research Gate (mea culpa–I haven’t added anything to that one paper that was posted), but even research social media is just a place to start. You wouldn’t build a research relationship based solely on a social media profile, just as you wouldn’t establish a start-up business based solely on a social profile, for example. There is relationship building to be done in research collaborations, just as in any other collaboration.

So, what’s the answer? Good old-fashioned networking. Get out there and meet others in person. Go to meetings, go to workshops–on campus, on nearby campuses, or out-of-state, national and international meetings if you have the funding. But don’t underestimate the value of even small meetings on specific topics around your campus. Even if you know the topic being presented extraordinarily well–perhaps especially if you know a lot about the topic of the presentation–go and mingle with the other attendees. Sometimes the fun–and the innovation–can be found in networking with people with interests beyond what you think is the scope of your research interest. These discussions can lead to some really innovative, creative, and fundable research ideas. And this is how researchers get information about campus resources that can be leveraged to create incredible designs and proposals. Knowledge is power, but don’t forget the other part of that quote–information is power too. To create collaborations, to benefit from all that surrounds you on your campus, no matter how siloed it may be, freely share and accept information and build your network. Even in a resource-scarce environment, you may find synergy if you are willing to network and engage in information sharing and collaboration.  (“Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.” Robin Morgan)

But be sure to begin networking before you need to network. It’s unrealistic to believe that, six months before that tenure and promotion packet is due or your existing funding is going to lapse, serendipity will kick in and make a great collaboration. Build your network, broaden your perspective, and watch what happens.

Leave a Reply