Structures of Scientific Collaboration
296 pp., 6 x 9 in, 26 fig/2 tbls illus.
- Published: May 18, 2007
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How technology and bureaucracy shape collaborative scientific research projects: an empirical study of multiorganizational collaboration in the physical sciences.
Collaboration among organizations is rapidly becoming common in scientific research as globalization and new communication technologies make it possible for researchers from different locations and institutions to work together on common projects. These scientific and technological collaborations are part of a general trend toward more fluid, flexible, and temporary organizational arrangements, but they have received very limited scholarly attention. Structures of Scientific Collaboration is the first study to examine multi-organizational collaboration systematically, drawing on a database of 53 collaborations documented for the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. By integrating quantitative sociological analyses with detailed case histories, Shrum, Genuth, and Chompalov pioneer a new and truly interdisciplinary method for the study of science and technology. Scientists undertake multi-organizational collaborations because individual institutions often lack sufficient resources—including the latest technology—to achieve a given research objective. The authors find that collaborative research depends on both technology and bureaucracy; scientists claim to abhor bureaucracy, but most collaborations use it constructively to achieve their goals. The book analyzes the structural elements of collaboration (among them formation, size and duration, organization, technological practices, and participant experiences) and the relationships among them. The authors find that trust, though viewed as positive, is not necessarily associated with successful projects; indeed, the formal structures of bureaucracy reduce the need for high levels of trust—and make possible the independence so valued by participating scientists.
This is an interesting and important book. The authors analyze a precious database on inter-institutional scientific collaborations and draw a number of conclusions about how such collaborations start, how they proceed, how they succeed or fail, and how they end. This is a substantial piece of work that will be crucial for those who study science and collaborations.
Current Literature on Science of Science
This important book takes seriously the importance of analyzing interorganizational scientific collaborations—an area that is of growing importance in the practice, guidance, and study of the sciences.
Jeanette Simmonds, ISIS