2020-2021 in London have been great to reducing my commuting time to two seconds from my bedroom to my living-room. Challenges were many however, especially when establishing and nurturing intercontinental collaborations. Katie (postdoc at Iowa State University) and I have been working on each side of the pond, untangling the association between molecular processes and evolution of sociality. Here are few tips that worked for us.

ants Busy working in our working pods, thankfully connected with Internet

Collaboration thrives on continuous communication. We use emails for important topics, and we used Slack for keeping track of actions. We moved on to a shared Google folder with more flexibility to share, change and organise.

We found that recurrent video calls were important to keep us on track, celebrating small milestones and big personal wins. We discuss findings, troubleshoot issues, organise logistics (e.g. sampling and sequencing). As we slowly realised that I will not be able to go to Iowa as planned due to the pandemic, we started to co-work on Zoom in my late afternoons and Katie’s early mornings: we meet at a specific time, we state our aims, and work on mute until one of us needs to ask a question. As we work on the same datasets with slightly different tools, this coworking window allows us to get immediate fixes on small issues.

We quickly started a common Github directory, where we push our code and datasets. This allows a great parallelisation of work, as long as we do not forget to pull first (more info here). Github projects have a great kanban organisation tab, where I can create task list and update them from TO DO to IN PROGRESS. With a 5 hour difference between us, this card system is efficient to quickly communicate the analysis progress.

Emulating real life interations is not straight-forward, and I am sure we’ll look back on this time with bitter sweet curiosity.