Posted February 18, 2003 Atlanta
Supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, the study shows that the number of collaborators is the strongest predictor of a scientist's productivity, as measured by books and scholarly papers published.
"For many years, people have been trying to encourage collaboration, but we haven't had much research that actually demonstrates a beneficial effect on productivity," said Barry Bozeman, Regents Professor of Public Policy at Georgia Tech and lead author of the study. "Since developing and maintaining collaborations requires time, there is always a question about whether the benefits of collaboration outweigh the costs. The work we've done suggests that the benefits of collaboration are great, and that collaboration is one of the best predictors of publishing productivity."
Bozeman and doctoral student Sooho Lee based their conclusions on surveys returned by 437 academic scientists and engineers working at major research centers in the United States. They also used curriculum vitae (CV) provided by the same set of scientists and engineers to help obtain measures of collaboration and productivity.
The study relates the number of books and refereed journal articles published by each of the respondents over a five-year period to the number of collaborators, considering not only the total number of books and papers, but also a "fractional count" in which each publication was assigned a score based on the number of authors. Bozeman and Lee also looked at other factors releated to publishing productivity, including scientists' rank, age, gender, collaboration strategies and job satisfaction.
The study, "The Impact of Research Collaboration on Scientific Productivity," was presented February 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Denver, CO.