Project summary

Functioning of a researcher in contemporary science is a mixture of competition and cooperation with other researchers within a highly institutionalized framework. Scientists compete, often quite fiercely, for primacy in discovery, for social status among fellow scientists, or for research funding. Classical results dating back to the works of de Solla Price and of Merton document a self-reinforcing unequal distribution of rewards (like recognition, financial support, attention) through the processes of cumulative advantage. At the same time, in recent decades doing science is becoming more and more a collective endeavor requiring cooperation crossing institutional and disciplinary boundaries. Scientometric studies report that the number of publications co-authored by at least two scientists is systematically increasing across scientific disciplines. Overlaid on top of competition and cooperation are the authority relations among the researchers that also influence individual propensities and obligations to collaborate. Finally, different scientific disciplines produced different sets of formal and informal norms that prescribe specific behavior related to collaboration and co-authorship.

The main goal of the proposed project is a comprehensive description and explanation of the phenomenon of collaboration in Polish science: its prevalence, structure, and changes in time. Are the patterns of collaboration driven by a relatively small group of highly active scientists, as suggested by the Mertonian Matthew effect? Or perhaps the patterns result from different nature of scientific inquiry in different disciplines of science? What is the role of individual goals and motivations vis a vis institutional and organizational factors? Finally, can the patterns of collaboration and competition be explained by network effects through which past and ongoing relations of cooperation affect the likelihood of future collaborative ties? Existing research documents important role of such effects in realms of inter-firm collaboration in research & development as well as in experimental studies of dynamics of cooperative behavior in social networks. We expect these effects to operate within science, which is a hypothesis not explored so far.

This project proposes building and applying a coherent conceptual framework, including mathematical model-building, complemented with a mixed-method research design consisting of large-scale quantitative studies and in-depth qualitative methods (see section Methodology). We argue that such approach is necessitated by the complex multi-level nature of the research problem. The approach will allow disentangling the role of factors operating on individual, organizational, and macro level, and their effects on collaboration in science. Mathematical model building and quantitative studies will rely on recent developments in modeling network dynamics, social network analysis, and statistical methods for network data. Qualitative studies will employ methods of Individual in-Depth Interview (IDI) and Focus Group Interview (FGI) applied to scientific environment.