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Background: Collaboration Characteristics in Academia

Clemens introduces you to the background on Collaboration Characteristics in Academia.

Why is collaboration important for the scholarly enterprise?

In public discussions, the sciences are often perceived as providing the ideal conditions for collaboration: autonomy and academic freedom, it is argued allow for the flexibility to openly engage with each other’s research. More recently, it was held that the increased specialization within the sciences and more complex problems pose a need for heterogeneous collaboration within and across disciplines.

Long term bibliometric studies appear to verify these claims (A Gazni, 2012). There is a trend of rising co-authorships within the sciences. Even disciplines like the Social Sciences and the Humanities, which were dominated by single authorship patterns, are affected by this trend (Engels, Ossenblok, & Spruyt, Eric, H.J., 2012; Ossenblok & Engels, 2015). Studying disciplinary cohesion in sociology, Moody found that the discipline is becoming more integrated by combining different methods and approaches within the co-authorship team.

Moreover, we find that collaborations in the sciences are highly valued. Science policy debates of recent decades have affected how collaborations are perceived.

Across the globe, for instance, there is a trend towards academic excellence (Angermüller, 2013). Science policy actors aim at increasing the visibility and attractiveness of their respective national research institutions. It is the aim to increase the research productivity, but also the reputation of academic institutions.

Not only in Germany, but also in other countries like France or the UK, research excellence initiatives and frameworks were established in order to boost competition between different universities and research organizations (Sivertsen, 2017). In this debate, we find that – foremost – international collaboration with reputed research organizations is associated with achieving academic excellence (Barjak & Robinson, 2008).

But research institutions are not only expected to increase the productivity of their research; it is also demanded that they engage in transferring knowledge to businesses and civil society more actively (Bozeman, 2000; Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny, & Schwartzman, Simon, Scott, Peter, Trow, Martin, 1994; Rip, 2002). Universities and research institutes have developed new formats for collaboration with local and regional partners. Novel formats for the interaction with users and citizens at the local should lower the barriers between research organizations and their societal environment (Leimüller, 2017).

While both of these types of collaborations – those that focus on academic excellence as well as those focusing on knowledge transfer – are rather different in how they are practiced and how they are set up, it remains collaboration (within and beyond academia) that is highly valued. However, there are also challenges to collaborations in scholarly practice.

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