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International Collaborations in Behavioral and Social Sciences: Report of a Workshop
funders want a product that includes research findings and are not satisfied with a report of time spent in consensus-building leading to agreed-upon constructs or the development of valid measures. The second phase is the conduct of the research itself; this is the only phase that most funding agencies are interested in supporting. During the third phase, researchers are faced with dissemination of research findings, publication of study results, documenting the dataset, and making the dataset available to the larger research community. This is also more challenging for collaborative international projects than for domestic ones because of differences in the concerns and interests of audiences in different cultural settings. It is often difficult to find sufficient funding for it. Several workshop participants, in discussing this phase of an international collaboration, emphasized the importance of handling the third phase very carefully. Their concerns were not only for the sake of the research project being completed but also for future research collaborations. Longitudinal research endeavors or trend studies will not succeed if collaborators feel slighted or excluded or if the studied population feels used or ignored. Everyone needs to reap some benefit (professional advancement, capacity building, policy improvement, identity confirmation), and this can be achieved primarily in the third phase. Guiding this process requires that the leaders of research be open-minded and sensitive in their approach. As Jacqueline Goodnow encouraged all researchers engaged in international collaborations, “Make sure you’re invited back!”
PROJECT SCOPE: LONG PERIODS OF LEAD-IN
The complexity of the first phase of any international research project is greatly affected by the nature of the collaboration. Does it consist of delivering a completed research design to compliant staff who will then implement it, or does it consist of collaborating with scholars in dispersed settings to shape the research agenda, formulate meaningful research questions, determine the best approaches to assessment, and decide on protocols or instruments? The former may be easier and quicker but ultimately is far less productive; the latter is more complex and time consuming but also is more likely to yield rewarding results.
Many issues will arise in research design. As an example, workshop participants discussed the many layers of attention to the questions in a survey instrument: Are these the questions the researcher means to ask? Do they capture what is being investigated? Are their meanings clear to respondents? Can these questions be asked to particular respondents or in