Collaborating on Integrated Projects

Collaborating on integrated projects can seem difficult, but, when implemented well, the potential for beneficial outcomes from such projects can make facing the challenges very worthwhile. That’s part of the reason why there’s growing movement by funding agencies toward supporting integrated, collaborative projects. Here are a few tips to help make collaborating on integrated efforts more enjoyable.

    • Involve all collaborators from start to finish.
        • When developing an integrated project, include all prospective collaborators from the beginning. Involving project team members early helps develop a coherent shared vision and makes collaborators feel like they are truly a team that is working on one integrated project.
        • Avoid making last-minute requests for an outreach plan from extension, stakeholder engagement, partners in on-farm demonstration efforts, or matching funds, etc. Some thoughtful planning can lead to more productive collaborations and outcomes.
        • Extension personnel appreciate being included as an author in research publications related to the project. Research can be much more impactful when practical implications of results are communicated to lay audiences and through stakeholder networks.
        • Stakeholder engagement is important as well. By keeping the communication with the stakeholders open, you avoid trying to explain or give directions to someone without prior engagement.
    • Be specific and ready to answer questions.
        • Here are just a few on the questions that might be asked, and collaborators should be ready to answer:
            • What are you asking of a collaborator and what will be done by someone else?
            • What is the goal of the project?
            • Is there funding to do everything you’re proposing?
            • Will you need to hire other help?
        • Clearly define the roles of collaborators and their organizations. This can help prevent confusion between collaborators on how much they are responsible for in the project.
        • Have a clear title and summary of the project to communicate the project and how things tie together. This can help collaborators that might have joined after the collaboration has started.
        • Make sure your plan includes objectives that specifically relate to the collaborator and have programming funds built into on-farm demonstration efforts.
    • Be ready for collaborators and stakeholders who are promoting or wary of products/systems.
        • Use the diverse backgrounds and past experiences of your collaborators to your advantage. Collaborators with different perspectives may see things in ways that you don’t. Because of previous experiences, collaborators may be wary of some aspects of the proposal. For example:
            • Specific products:
                Some collaborators may have concerns about side effects of products, so they may be wary of its use, but they may have ideas how to test for those side effects.
            • Equipment usage or practicality:
                Some collaborators may better understand how the end user needs the equipment to work for them, so have them help with prototype development so it’s easier to take the equipment from prototype to commercial production.
            • Certain systems:
                If you’re trying to bring a certain system to a new area, stakeholders and collaborators may be able to provide insight about other systems that have been tried in their area, both successfully and not-so-much.
        • Just because collaborators and stakeholders may be wary of your proposal doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be included. In fact, the opposite may be true. They may be able to guide the proposal in a way that strengthens it but be prepared for a little push back.

It takes some effort to build a productive team and keep everyone on the same page, but good collaborations are hard to beat.

Partnerships in the Manure Nutrient Management Field

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Responsible manure nutrient management improves environmental quality while maintaining agricultural productivity. Multiple organizations and individuals play a part in improving the understanding and practice of responsible management. But how does manure nutrient management information flow? The “Pathways” project’s goals were to understand and delineate pathways for effective information dissemination and use among various agricultural professional audiences that facilitate successful integrated (research/outreach/education) projects and programs. This presentation examines the relevance of partnerships within the manure nutrient management network and barriers to these partnerships.

What did we do?

We disseminated the “Pathways” survey online utilizing the mailing lists of several professional and producer organizations and listservs associated with manure management. There were 964 surveys started and 608 completed. The six types of organizations with more than 10% of the total survey population’s responses were university/Extension; government non-regulatory agencies; government regulatory agencies; producers; special government agencies; and sale or private enterprises.

The South Dakota State University Institutional Review Board deemed the survey exempt under federal regulation 45 CFR 46.101 (b) (IRB-1402010-EXM and IRB-1502001-EXM).

What have we learned?

The survey posed “How important is collaboration with each of the following groups related to manure nutrient management?” Figure 1 shows the mean relevance among all survey participants, evaluated on a scale of 1 (Not important/somewhat unimportant) to 4 (Highly important). On average, all potential partner groups were recognized as important (>2). Partnerships with producers were deemed most important (3.68) by all survey respondents.

After assessing relevance, we asked survey participants to indicate what barriers, if any, deter them from collaboration with each of the following groups related to manure nutrient management (select all that apply). For all potential partners listed, with the exception of tribal governments, “No Barriers to Use” was the most selected option. “Do Not Have a Relationship” was a common and stronger barrier for commodity, sales and service partners, compared to government agencies, for example.

The barriers “Discouraged or Not Allowed” and “No Incentive to Collaborate” were relatively small selections. The barrier “Do Not Have a Relationship” is possible to overcome at both individual and organizational levels, where needed.

Figure 1. The average relevance and the distribution of barriers to collaborating or partnering with the types of organizations specified, for purposes of manure nutrient management

Future Plans

In the future, assessing the reasons for specific partnerships can further aid improving communication and collaboration in the manure nutrient management network.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Erin Cortus, Associate Professor and Environmental Quality Specialist at South Dakota State University

Corresponding author email

Additional information


The Pathways Project greatly appreciates the support of the North Central Region Water Network Seed Grant, South Dakota Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and the collaborative groups of educators, researchers and agency personnel, for improving and advocating the survey.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.