More than ever, science is a team effort, bringing together multiple disciplines and geographical regions. At their best, collaborations foster greater understanding, respect and trust, as well as deepening our knowledge. In this week’s special issue, we take a look at how the nature of collaborations is evolving, and offer some examples of how to keep collaborators working in harmony — as well as suggestions for how to stop things going awry. The global changes wrought by the pandemic have exerted a significant effect on global trends for collaborations, as well as helping to drive initiatives to find ways to tackle COVID-19. More locally, carefully managed collaborations can bring communities together, whether to tackle a water-supply crisis or to monitor endangered species. But any collaboration requires astute organization, including dealing with potential barriers and ensuring that due credit is fairly assigned. The complexities of these processes and the need for guidance are captured in the cover image, which takes its inspiration from the iconic Haynes vehicle repair manuals.