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Collaboration in a distributed research program

Collaboration in a distributed research program Researchers need to collaborate to address grand challenges such as climate change, poverty and sustainable food production. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the researchers in a globally distributed research program interact to move their research forward.Design/methodology/approachThe authors interviewed 14 participants in the research program.FindingsIn spite of the spatial distribution of the researchers the output from the research program is predominantly collaborative; as much as 79 percent of the publications are co-authored by researchers from multiple countries. However, the researchers mostly work alone on their contributions to their joint work and spend minimal time interacting. This strategy of minimal interaction is punctuated by islands of intense interaction when they occasionally meet in person. Interaction feels natural, productive and satisfying to them when they are co-located but less so when they are distributed, probably because they experience technology-mediated interaction over a distance as somewhat impoverished. The interviewees mention that the minimal-interaction strategy incurs the risks of cracks in common ground and of misconstruing minimal interaction as lack of commitment. But the strategy is generally well-liked.Research limitations/implicationsThe experience of technology-mediated interaction as impoverished points to an explanation for the finding of less interaction in distributed than co-located research. It should be noted that the study is restricted to one research program.Originality/valueBy questioning widely touted recommendations for ongoing, regular and sustained interaction this study provides a fresh look at scientific collaboration. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Documentation Emerald Publishing

Collaboration in a distributed research program

Journal of Documentation , Volume 75 (2): 15 – Feb 19, 2019

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References (46)

Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
0022-0418
DOI
10.1108/jd-05-2018-0078
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Researchers need to collaborate to address grand challenges such as climate change, poverty and sustainable food production. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the researchers in a globally distributed research program interact to move their research forward.Design/methodology/approachThe authors interviewed 14 participants in the research program.FindingsIn spite of the spatial distribution of the researchers the output from the research program is predominantly collaborative; as much as 79 percent of the publications are co-authored by researchers from multiple countries. However, the researchers mostly work alone on their contributions to their joint work and spend minimal time interacting. This strategy of minimal interaction is punctuated by islands of intense interaction when they occasionally meet in person. Interaction feels natural, productive and satisfying to them when they are co-located but less so when they are distributed, probably because they experience technology-mediated interaction over a distance as somewhat impoverished. The interviewees mention that the minimal-interaction strategy incurs the risks of cracks in common ground and of misconstruing minimal interaction as lack of commitment. But the strategy is generally well-liked.Research limitations/implicationsThe experience of technology-mediated interaction as impoverished points to an explanation for the finding of less interaction in distributed than co-located research. It should be noted that the study is restricted to one research program.Originality/valueBy questioning widely touted recommendations for ongoing, regular and sustained interaction this study provides a fresh look at scientific collaboration.

Journal

Journal of DocumentationEmerald Publishing

Published: Feb 19, 2019

Keywords: Research work; Scientific collaboration; Information science; Global research; Distributed work; Minimal interaction; Team science

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