Sustainability Science

, 5:115 | Cite as

Towards institutional analysis of sustainability science: a quantitative examination of the patterns of research collaboration

  • Masaru YarimeEmail author
  • Yoshiyuki Takeda
  • Yuya Kajikawa
Original Article


This paper examines quantitatively the patterns of collaboration over geographical boundaries in the emerging field of sustainability science by empirically analyzing the bibliometric data of scientific articles. The results indicate that an increasing number of countries are engaged in research on sustainability, with the proportion of articles published through international collaboration rising as well. The number of countries engaged in international collaboration on sustainability research has been increasing, and the diversity of countries engaged in research collaboration beyond national borders is also increasing. The geographical patterns of collaboration on sustainability show that research collaboration tends to be conducted between countries which are geographically located closely, suggesting that communication and information exchange might be limited within the regional clusters. The focused fields of research activities on sustainability are significantly different between countries, as each country has its focused fields of research related to sustainability. The specialization of research activities is also observed in international collaboration. While these patterns of international collaboration within regional clusters focusing on specific fields could be effective in promoting the creation, transmission, and sharing of knowledge on sustainability utilizing the already existing regional networks, they could pose a serious obstacle to collecting, exchanging, and integrating diverse types of knowledge, especially when it is necessary to deal with problems involving large-scale complex interactions with long-term implications, such as climate change. It would be of critical importance to establish inter-regional linkages by devising appropriate institutional arrangements for global research collaboration on sustainability science.


Sustainability science Institutional analysis Research collaboration Bibliometrics 



We are very grateful to the anonymous referees for their insightful comments and suggestions, which improved greatly our manuscript. This work was supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) of Japan through Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology (Project name: IR3S) and Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K., as a part of the research project “Knowledge Structurization for Sustainability Science” undertaken by the University of Tokyo.


  1. Ahuja G (2000) Collaboration networks, structural holes, and innovation: a longitudinal study. Adm Sci Q 45:425–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baba Y, Yarime M, Shichijo N (2009) Sources of success in advanced materials innovation: the role of core researchers in university-industry collaboration in Japan. International Journal of Innovation Management (in press)Google Scholar
  3. Chikyo T (2006) Trends in materials informatics in research on inorganic materials. Kagaku-Gijutsu Doko Kenkyu (58):20–29Google Scholar
  4. Clark WC, Dickson NM (2003) Sustainability science: the emerging research program. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100(14):8059–8061CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. David PA, Spence M (2003) Towards institutional infrastructures for e-Science: the scope of the challenge. Final report of the OII project on “The institutional infrastructure of e-Science: the scope of the issues”. Oxford Internet Institute, 15 September 2003Google Scholar
  6. Emmott S (ed) (2006) Towards 2020 science. Microsoft CorporationGoogle Scholar
  7. Foray D (2004) The economics of knowledge. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  8. Freeman C (1991) Networks of innovators: a synthesis of research issues. Res Policy 20:499–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fruchterman TMJ, Reingold EM (1991) Graph drawing by force-directed placement. Softw Pract Exp 21:1129–1164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Haberli R, Klein JT (2001) Summary. In: Klein JT, Grossenbacher-Mansuy W, Haberli R, Bill Alain, Scholz RW, Welti M (eds) Transdisciplinarity: joint problem solving among science, technology, and society: an effective way for managing complexity. Birkhäuser Verlag, BaselGoogle Scholar
  11. Kajikawa Y, Ohno J, Takeda Y, Matsushima K, Komiyama H (2007) Creating an academic landscape of sustainability science: an analysis of the citation network. Sustain Sci 2:221–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kasemir B, Jäger J, Jaeger CC, Gardner MT (eds) (2003) Public participation in sustainability science: a handbook. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. Kates RW, Clark WC, Corell R, Hall JM, Jaeger CC, Lowe I, McCarthy JJ, Schellnhuber HJ, Bolin B, Dickson NM, Faucheux S, Gallopin GC, Grübler A, Huntley B, Jäger J, Jodha NS, Kasperson RE, Mabogunje A, Matson P, Mooney H, Moore B 3rd, O’Riordan T, Svedlin U (2001) Environment and development. Sustainability science. Science 292(5517):641–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Komiyama H, Takeuchi K (2006) Sustainability science: building a new discipline. Sustain Sci 1(1):1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Matsuda H, Date S, Shimojo S, Wakatsuki K, Furudate T, Kawamura G, Kido Y (2006) Data integration of life science databases using grid technology. Presentation at the German–Japan e-Science Workshop, Tokyo, Japan, 25–26 May 2006Google Scholar
  16. Maurer SM (2006) Inside the anticommons: academic scientists’ struggle to build a commercially self-supporting human mutations database, 1999–2001. Res Policy 35:839–853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. National Science Foundation (2003) Revolutionizing science and engineering through cyberinfrastructure. Report of the National Science Foundation Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure. January 2003Google Scholar
  18. Pahl-Wostl C, Mostert E, Tàbara D (2008) The growing importance of social learning in water resources management and sustainability science. Ecol Soc 13(1):24Google Scholar
  19. Powell WW, Grodal S (2005) Networks of innovators. In: Jan F, Mowery DC, Nelson RR (eds) The Oxford handbook of innovation. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  20. Shrum W, Genuth J, Chompalov I (eds) (2007) Structures of scientific collaboration. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Stuart TE (1998) Network positions and propensities to collaborate: an investigation of strategic alliance formation in a high-technology industry. Adm Sci Q 43:668–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tàbara D, Pahl-Wostl C (2007) Sustainability learning in natural resource use and management. Ecol Soc 12(2):3Google Scholar
  23. Uzzi B (1997) Social structure and competition in interfirm networks: the paradox of embeddedness. Adm Sci Q 42:35–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Yarime M (2009a) Public coordination for escaping from technological lock-in: its possibilities and limits in replacing diesel vehicles with compressed natural gas vehicles in tokyo. J Clean Prod 17(14):1281–1288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Yarime M (2009b) Eco-innovation through university-industry collaboration: co-evolution of technology and institution for the development of lead-free solders. DRUID Society Summer Conference, Copenhagen, 17–19 June 2009Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science, United Nations University, and Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Masaru Yarime
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yoshiyuki Takeda
    • 2
  • Yuya Kajikawa
    • 3
  1. 1.Graduate Program in Sustainability Science (GPSS), Graduate School of Frontier SciencesUniversity of TokyoKashiwaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Project Management, Faculty of Social Systems ScienceChiba Institute of TechnologyNarashinoJapan
  3. 3.Institute of Engineering Innovation, School of EngineeringUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations