disputes occur because the researchers had different understandings when they began the collaboration.
One way to minimize these disputes is to work out an agreement beforehand with some of the specific details of the collaboration and what is going to happen. These agreements are important for several reasons. Researchers may have different ideas about what an “author” is, different understandings of human research, and so forth. Educational background can play a role. An MD in one country may have very different training than a U.S. MD. Researchers also vary with respect to their knowledge and training on the responsible conduct of research and specific issues such as data management, authorship, publication, and research integrity.
Collaboration agreements should discuss authorship and how it will be determined. For example, the International Conference Medical Journal Editors Guidelines can be helpful. It should cover publications—where and when they are to be submitted. Data management is an especially important issue in large, international collaborations where research records may be kept in different countries, and in different languages. How will the data be stored, analyzed, and shared? Will any data be confidential, and how can this be protected? Management and sharing of research materials (cell lines, tissue samples, and reagents) should be covered as well. Intellectual property and funding expectations should be addressed at the beginning whenever possible.
Dr. Resnick pointed out that conflict of interest is a very serious issue. There are real conflicts of interest and perceived conflicts of interest—both should be dealt with because something one researcher might consider a perceived conflict could ethically tarnish the whole project. Also, concrete expectations regarding roles and responsibilities in the research and timelines should be covered. Finally, regulation is a very important issue, particularly in meeting requirements of different national jurisdictions and addressing any conflicts that do not harmonize.
Entering into a formal agreement implies that some level of trust already exists. So prior to concluding an agreement it is necessary to learn about one’s potential collaborator. Does he or she actually have the qualifications that they claim to have? How do you know that they will fulfill their commitments?
In practice, these sorts of agreements are not utilized very often. One reason is that researchers are not aware that they can develop these sorts of agreements. Another reason is inconvenience. Researchers may not want to take the time to develop an agreement, or want to avoid being legalistic