Get access

An emerging view of scientific collaboration: Scientists' perspectives on collaboration and factors that impact collaboration

Authors


Abstract

Collaboration is often a critical aspect of scientific research, which is dominated by complex problems, rapidly changing technology, dynamic growth of knowledge, and highly specialized areas of expertise. An individual scientist can seldom provide all of the expertise and resources necessary to address complex research problems. This paper describes collaboration among a group of scientists, and considers how their experiences are socially shaped. The scientists were members of a newly formed distributed, multi-disciplinary academic research center that was organized into four multi-disciplinary research groups. Each group had 14 to 34 members, including faculty, postdoctoral fellows and students, at four geographically dispersed universities. To investigate challenges that emerge in establishing scientific collaboration, data were collected about members' previous and current collaborative experiences, perceptions regarding collaboration, and work practices during the center's first year of operation. The data for the study includes interviews with members of the center, observations of videoconferences and meetings, and a center-wide sociometric survey. Data analysis has led to the development of a framework that identifies forms of collaboration that emerged among scientists (e.g., complementary and integrative collaboration) and associated factors, which influenced collaboration including personal compatibility, work connections, incentives, and infrastructure. These results may inform the specification of social and organizational practices, which are needed to establish collaboration in distributed, multi-disciplinary research centers.

Ancillary