, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 527–540

Critical mass and the dependency of research quality on group size


DOI: 10.1007/s11192-010-0282-9

Cite this article as:
Kenna, R. & Berche, B. Scientometrics (2011) 86: 527. doi:10.1007/s11192-010-0282-9


Academic research groups are treated as complex systems and their cooperative behaviour is analysed from a mathematical and statistical viewpoint. Contrary to the naive expectation that the quality of a research group is simply given by the mean calibre of its individual scientists, we show that intra-group interactions play a dominant role. Our model manifests phenomena akin to phase transitions which are brought about by these interactions, and which facilitate the quantification of the notion of critical mass for research groups. We present these critical masses for many academic areas. A consequence of our analysis is that overall research performance of a given discipline is improved by supporting medium-sized groups over large ones, while small groups must strive to achieve critical mass.


Critical mass in researchResearch qualityResearch policyResearch assessment exerciseAgence d’évaluation de la recherche et de l’enseignement supérieurResearch excellence frameworkResearch funding

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Mathematics Research CentreCoventry UniversityCoventryEngland, UK
  2. 2.Statistical Physics Group, Institut Jean LamourCNRS—Nancy Université—UPVMVandoeuvre les Nancy CedexFrance