, Volume 85, Issue 1, pp 219-242

A new approach to analyzing patterns of collaboration in co-authorship networks: mesoscopic analysis and interpretation

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Abstract

This paper focuses on methods to study patterns of collaboration in co-authorship networks at the mesoscopic level. We combine qualitative methods (participant interviews) with quantitative methods (network analysis) and demonstrate the application and value of our approach in a case study comparing three research fields in chemistry. A mesoscopic level of analysis means that in addition to the basic analytic unit of the individual researcher as node in a co-author network, we base our analysis on the observed modular structure of co-author networks. We interpret the clustering of authors into groups as bibliometric footprints of the basic collective units of knowledge production in a research specialty. We find two types of coauthor-linking patterns between author clusters that we interpret as representing two different forms of cooperative behavior, transfer-type connections due to career migrations or one-off services rendered, and stronger, dedicated inter-group collaboration. Hence the generic coauthor network of a research specialty can be understood as the overlay of two distinct types of cooperative networks between groups of authors publishing in a research specialty. We show how our analytic approach exposes field specific differences in the social organization of research.

An earlier version of the paper was presented at ISSI 2009, 14–17 July, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.