When we think of remote working or the term ‘digital nomad’, we are likely to conjure up images of people lying under coconut trees in exotic locations, typing away into laptops. In reality, however, remote working is already part of our daily lives and is becoming as ‘normal’ as an office/desk job. We’re all turning into digital nomads – all you need is a dependable Internet connection! Online, international collaborations are breaking geographical and financial barriers, paving the way for exciting new ideas and practices. When it comes to research and innovation, remote work is of particular importance as it allows access to far-flung talent and resources that were previously unreachable. Science labs can now reach out to other labs who might have the resources that they don’t to perform an experiment. Startups can now hire flexible, cost-effective R&D teams or individual experts. The following examples show how businesses and researchers are working together, independent of location, to solve challenges.
Remote research partnerships
Oxford University’s Web Science Trust brings together academia from the likes of MIT, Oxford and NUS to work on projects that involve understand the Web and improving it. Some of the greatest research projects in biotechnology have been made possible by remote collaborations, such as the Human Genome Project and the Genographic Project. In these projects, there was a network of dedicated centres across the globe who contributed to the research. In a world where there’s much talk about building walls and closing our borders, there is a need for collaboration more than ever!
Academia-industry and interdisciplinary collaborations
Some of the world’s biggest problems can be solved by academia-industry partnerships. UK-based GSK has tied up with Google’s parent company Alphabet to develop electronic implants, the University of Exeter is working with Shell to make bacteria-based fuel. Historically, Swami Vivekananda and Tesla have bounced ideas of each other, while Hardy and Ramanujan have developed mathematical theorems. Science disciplines are no longer distinct – the lines are becoming more and more blurred. The greater the overlap, the better the innovation. Industries can offer to academia the fuel of funding, whereas researchers can contribute to the development of business. These collaborations can take place across geographies. Citizen science projects are also catching on, such as the recent ANU project asking people to spot Planet 9.
Freelancers and marketplaces
Online marketplaces, which started off offering goods, now are popularly selling services as well. This works as a great benefit for scientific community, especially for experts and postdocs who would like to offer their services and consult on specific projects. An online marketplace also allows access to resources that may not be available in-house or may be needed only for a short period of time. Take, for examples, NGOs, who have huge datasets but can’t afford a full-time data science team. Hiring a freelance researcher helps them save time and costs, and also allows them to utilize the power of data analytics to drive their fundraising campaigns. Freelance data scientists are in great demand in the biotech industry as well. An online network allows interdisciplinary collaborations – researchers can work with editors, startups can work with subject matter experts – the combinations are limitless. It’s safe to say that the freelance market will only grow, as more and more individuals and organizations encourage the flexibility of remote working. Why, even NASA has been hiring freelancers! While most networking in the world has so far been taking place as conventions and conferences, online marketplaces are quickly changing that.
According to the Global Workplace Analytics, 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency. Kolabtree has a remote team spread out across three timezones. Telecommuting is becoming integrated within corporate culture, with companies like Dell, Amazon and Apple offering work-from-home opportunities. Remote working also improves concentration and productivity, and is less expensive for both the recruiter as well as the employee.
The ability to cut across so many boundaries and access knowledge within minutes is something to be marvelled at. Being able to work across borders is what we think will truly bring the world together and propel it forward. Collaboration breeds innovation!
Are you an organization or individual who is working remotely? We would love to hear your thoughts!