Lately we've been discussing numerous texts at our workplace (a research institute) with a native speaker (British). Those pieces of work are mostly reports, proposals, and scientific papers.

Our teacher/editor claims that the word "collaboration" carries a negative connotation and therefore suggested to not use it. However the term seems - at least to me - to be widely used in scientific context and professional matters.

So the question is whether "collaboration" really sounds negative or not?

  • That may depend on the country. In most English speaking countries, "collaboration" is the standard word used in this context; "the movie was produced in collaboration with studio [x]" etc. But in some languages the two meanings are split, e.g. in Polish there's "współpraca" which means collaboration in the above sense, and "kolaboracja" which is strictly used for criminal collaboration. It stands to reason the word may evoke undesired connotations in these countries. – SF. Oct 20 '15 at 12:36
  • Agree completely, "collaboration" is not negative at all, and implies that a good effort was put in it. The editor had a language confusion. – Nihilist_Frost Oct 20 '15 at 13:58
  • Just a note: in English the situation in which individuals work together for a criminal purpose is often called a "conspiracy" . . . not a "collaboration," which is a neutral word, as others have said. – vstrong Oct 20 '15 at 14:57

So the question is whether "collaboration" really sounds negative or not?

To me, it sounds neutral. It indicates that there was reasonable effort from everybody involved in the collaboration.

collaboration - the action of working with someone to produce something: he wrote a book in collaboration with his son.1

There is a negative meaning. However, this is the name of a criminal charge, and in context, nobody is going to think you mean this:

traitorous cooperation with an enemy: he faces charges of collaboration.1

However the term seems to be widely used in scientific context and professional matters.

It is. There are thousands of results searching for the term "collaboration" on Academia SE, a site dedicated to academics and higher education. (I used Academia as you specifically mention that you at a research institute. Universities are often research based).

1. My definitions come from the dictionary built into Mac OS X. I'm not sure how to reference it.

  • I would say the same words as you. – Nihilist_Frost Oct 20 '15 at 14:00

I worked for over four years in a British research institution. The word "collaboration" is extremely common, does not carry any negative connotations, and is routinely used specifically to describe cooperative work done either with researchers from a different research group within the same organisation or, equally, with participants from different organisations, institutions, or even with partners in industry.

Quite the contrary to your fears, collaborations are usually very positive things. If all parties are engaged for a justifiable purpose and there is real synergistic work being done then working in collaborative projects can be very beneficial to all parties. They allow you to tackle larger, more complex problems than a single individual or group has expertise to manage and carry, arguably, higher prestige - primarily because a large group of people are less likely to be chasing a random hopeless idea and are more likely to be on the track of something promising; they will necessarily require more convincing evidence that their time will be well spent on the exercise.

  • Thank you for your valued input. To me the only use of the word with a negative tone was w.r.t occupations and the obvious collaborator working with and for the enemy. – Ghanima Oct 20 '15 at 19:03

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