International Research Collaboration Beyond Email and Skype: The Benefits of an In-Person Experience through LOREX

Jeffrey Reeve Nielson, Washington State University Vancouver, School of the Environment, Vancouver, WA, United States
Digital means of communication like email and Skype are essential tools for international collaborative research, but cannot always yield the same benefits as when combined with an in-person experience, even if the project could be completed remotely. Experiences from a 4-week international research collaboration at Dalhousie University as part of the Limnology and Oceanography Research Exchange (LOREX) were documented to show the benefits of an in-person collaboration and provide guidance for future LOREX participants. When research requires the use of an international collaborator’s laboratory, or a field site located within the borders of a collaborator’s country, then the benefits of an in-person experience are clear and compelling. However, when the research is purely computer-based, such as data analysis or modeling, then the benefits of face-to-face collaboration can be less obvious or expected, but similarly valuable. Analogous to this latter case, data analysis to assess the influence of internal waves on mixing in a stratified lake was conducted abroad, in Nova Scotia from June-July 2019. Although this face-to-face collaboration required more preparation, travel, and time away from family than opting to work via digital means alone, several key in-person benefits were observed, including the making of numerous unexpected connections, making stronger connections with collaborators, performing impromptu lab experiments, reconnecting with old hobbies, learning about a new culture, and having daily science discussions with a wise mentor in front of an old-fashioned blackboard. These benefits are discussed and advice is given for future LOREX candidates on what to expect and how to take advantage of their future face-to-face international research collaborations.