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