be true to your school

I spent this morning at a training/discussion for administrators at Tufts. One topic was the need to strengthen collaborations within our university, especially ones that combine several departments or schools. Collaboration has evident value, whether for research, social impact, or teaching. But often the best collaborators are not colleagues within your own institution. Tufts happens to be a relatively small research university in a metropolitan area with a remarkable array of other universities. Even on a direct journey from our own medical school to our own school of arts and sciences, one must pass by or under Harvard, MIT, Lesley, Emerson, and Suffolk universities. This means that collaborating with colleagues at other institutions is especially tempting for Tufts faculty. But the same opportunities are really available to scholars anywhere. Even if you teach at a relatively large and remote university (like Penn State), you can easily collaborate with colleagues around the world.

Collaboration across a single university is good for the institution. Collaboration among several universities is sometimes better for the actual research or service, because it allows the strongest and most coherent group to form.

I think we should care about our own universities. They pay us, after all. And Tufts is a good community, worthy of loyalty. The world is better off when Tufts is stronger as an institution.

That does not mean that collaborating within a university is better than working across institutions. The tradeoff is undeniable. I simply believe that there is value to intra-university collaborations, and they deserve deliberate attention and resources.