Part 2: Effective collaborations in epidemiology projects

Pin down your authorship list

Determine authorship list before you lift a finger on any analysis and get buy-in from collaborators on that list.

Stay organized

Have one folder where you save everything, and have subfolders within that for groups of documents. I suggest these subfolders:

  • Manuscript
  • Abstract
  • Data and analysis
  • Paper proposal (for REGARDS projects & others with manuscript proposal documents)

…and keep relevant documents within each one. You might want to put an “archive” folder within each subfolder (e.g., manuscript\archive) and move old drafts into the archive folder to reduce clutter.

Give documents a descriptive name. Don’t call it “manuscript [versioning system].docx”– use terms for your projects. If you are doing a REGARDS paper looking at CRP and risk of hypertension, name it “regards crp htn abstract [versioning system].docx”.

Use an intuitive versioning system. I like revision # then version # (eg r00 v01). Many people use dates. If you use dates to keep track of versions, append your documents with the ISO8601 date convention of YYYY-MM-DD. Trust me. Lots of details on this post.

Have realistic goals and stick to deadlines

Come up with some firm deadlines and do your best to stick with them. Here are some goals to accomplish in moving a project forward, if you wanted an example.

  • Combine all existing written documents (eg, proposal) into one manuscript.
  • Draft blank tables and decide what figures you want to make. Write methods.
  • Generate baseline characteristics. Describe in results.
  • Generate descriptive statistics/histograms for your exposure and outcome(s). Describe in results.
  • Estimate primary and secondary outcome(s). Describe in results.
  • Complete secondary analyses. Describe in results.
  • Finish first draft. Send to your primary mentor or collaborator.
  • Integrate feedback from primary mentor or collaborator into a second draft. Circulate to coauthors.
  • Integrate feedback from coauthors into a document to be submitted to a journal.
  • Format your manuscript for a specific journal and submit it. (This takes a surprisingly large amount of time.)

Managing your mentor: Send reminder emails more frequently than you probably realize

I block off time to work on your stuff, but clinical priorities or other professional/parenting challenges might bump that time. I try to find other time to work on your stuff, but a big crisis might mean that I don’t have a chance to reschedule.

Please, please, please, please email me early and persistently about your projects. This will never annoy me — these emails are very helpful. Quick focused emails are helpful here, especially if you re-forward your prior email threads. Eg, “Hi Tim, wondering if you had a chance to take a look at that draft from last week, reforwarded here. Thanks, [name].”

Working on revisions

Use tracked changes

And remember to turn them on when you send around a draft!

Append your initials to the end of the document that you are editing for someone else

For me, I’ll change a name to “My cool document v1 tbp.docx”.