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Contradicting incentives for research collaboration


This study describes the Danish publication award system (BFI), investigates whether its built-in incentives have had an effect on publication behavior at the University of Southern Denmark, and discusses the possible future implications on researcher incentives should universities wish to measure BFI on the individual level. We analyzed publication data from the university CRIS system (Pure) and from SciVal. Several studies indicate that co-authored scholarly journal articles attract more citations than single author articles. The reason for this are not clear, however, research collaboration across institutions and countries is commonly accepted in the research community and among university managements as one way of increasing the researcher’s and institution’s reputation and impact. The BFI system is designed to award scholarly publication activity at Danish universities, especially publication in international journals of high status. However, we find that the built-in incentives leave the researcher and his or her institution with a dilemma: If the researchers optimize their performance by forming author groups with external collaborators, the optimal way of doing so for the researchers is not the optimal way seen from the perspective of the university. Our analysis shows that the typical article has 6.5 authors, two of which are internal, and that this has remained stable since the introduction of the BFI. However, there is variation across the disciplines. While ‘the Arts and Humanities’ and ‘the Social Sciences’ seem to compose author groups in a way which does not optimize the performance of the institution, both ‘Health’ and ‘the Natural Sciences’ seem to optimize according to criteria other than those specified in the BFI.

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Correspondence to Charlotte Wien.

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We thank the anonymous reviewers at Scientometrics for some very useful comments for an earlier version of this work.

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Wien, C., Dorch, B.F. & Larsen, A.V. Contradicting incentives for research collaboration. Scientometrics 112, 903–915 (2017).

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  • Reward systems
  • Denmark
  • Incentives effects
  • Case study