The Five Soft-Skills of a Great Researcher

Skylar Scott, Senior Researcher
March 17, 2021

Office collaboration
Photo by Free-Photos on pixabay

Over my time at UDRC, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers inside and outside our agency. Much of my blog posts have been devoted to helping researchers develop the hard-skills like choosing models, software, methods, and techniques to write outstanding research. What is perhaps more important to a project's success is learning what soft-skills make a great researcher. The following skills are by no means a comprehensive list of the only important soft attributes to work on, but just five attributes that made my work with particular researchers a delight.

Leave your ego at the door – The best work a researcher can present is one that has gone through multiple corrections, drafts, and revisions. This process often involves being told you are wrong. It is tempting to take that as an insult to your intelligence, but we all have different strengths. The best work comes when the feedback of others is involved. Try to approach critiques of your work with gratitude and excitement.

Come prepared to learn – Some seasoned researchers have used the same model with the same software for years. They may not find value in learning new languages, models, or techniques to do similar tasks. However, I have been surprised at how different languages are better at different tasks. Everyone comes with a different skill set or background, and the best researchers are hungry to try new things. On the flip side, be generous in sharing your secrets you have picked up over the years.

Communication is key – Communication is even more important in a telecommuting atmosphere. The days of swinging by a colleague's desk to see what they are up to may be behind us forever. The easiest researchers to work with are those who update colleagues on what they did that day and what they are looking to get done tomorrow.

Get to know each other – It is much easier to ask for help or let someone know you accidentally deleted yesterday's code (it happens to all of us at one point or another) if you know them a little bit outside of a work context. Ask about their family, past work, and hobbies. As a bonus, it makes work a much more pleasant place to be.

Trust is expected – The phrase "trust is earned, not given" should not apply to a research partnership. Sometimes, it is hard to let go of a portion of your research, especially if it is meaningful research. However, few things are more deflating than being asked to work on a project you are not trusted to work on.

As I continue collaborating with other researchers, I will refer to this list on occasion to ensure I am a great researcher to work with. If this type of environment sounds like the type of place you would like to do research, consider applying with us. We would love another great researcher on our team! (