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Exploring the Future of Research Collaboration

Originally Published MDDI June 2002R&D DIGEST

June 1, 2002

1 Min Read
Exploring the Future of Research Collaboration

Originally Published MDDI June 2002


In most fields of research, progress is a collaborative process governed largely by the openness of communication and the exchange of ideas. Donald deB. Beaver, chair of the history of science and science and technology studies at Williams College (Williamstown, MA), has examined this collaborative process and examined how it is influenced by various factors, such as the emergence of the Internet.

Beaver notes that collaborative research was a relatively rare event until World War I, but such efforts multiplied rapidly after World War II. He explains that two early trends in the process were that a collaborative first paper usually led to above-average productivity later, and that elite scientific journals published disproportionately more collaborative papers than did less-prestigious journals. Beaver adds that this second trend continues today, with more than 90% of the papers in some journals being collaborative.

Beaver also identifies the current importance of e-mail to collaborative research programs, writing that "generally, research is impossible without it." Beaver notes that this new interconnectedness has revolutionized how research collaboration occurs and who its participants are, expanding possibilities for international partnerships.

"Globalization will lead to greater geographical diversity of collaborators, be they individuals, laboratories, or institutes," he writes. "Physical location is no longer a barrier to the free and easy exchange of information. Indeed, it may be the case that the advent of e-mail has already begun to increase diversity in geographical locations."

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