In our globally collected world, and scientific practice, we collaborate quite extensively. This is increasingly true in brain sciences, as demonstrated by the recently created International Brain Initiative. Thus, we and others frequently collaborate, and communicate via email. Below, I provide our checklist for how to email collaborators:
- Always provide evidence, ideally with figures/charts, that you have made progress since the last communication. We find people tend to respond best to results, rather than requests.
- Make the email as short and to the point as possible. We find that people don’t like to read long emails.
- Indicate your excitement. We find that people like working with people that love their joint work.
Allude to incentives that they care about: fame, fortune, glory, publications, grants, etc. We find that people respond to incentives, see for example the first sentence of The Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Life Paperback – by Steven E. Landsburg:
Most of economics can be summarized in four words: “People respond to incentives.” The rest is commentary.
- If you are a trainee, or otherwise have a “boss”, send a draft to your boss first.
Here is an example:
X: we recently did X analysis, and discovered Y (see attached fig). However, we do not understand Z. Can you briefly explain by email, and/or can we find a time to chat at your convenience. We are super excited to take the next steps with you, so we can finalize the analysis and proceed to publication this month.