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Scientific collaboration of researchers and organizations: a two-level blockmodeling approach

Abstract

The development and successful implementation of R&D policies depends on understanding patterns of scientific collaboration (SC). Existing studies on SC typically focus on the individual level, despite SC occurring on many interdependent social levels. Therefore, this paper provides a simultaneous insight into SC patterns among researchers (individual level) and among organizations (organizational level) in the social sciences. SC on the individual level is operationalized by co-authorship of a scientific paper whereas two organizations are said to collaborate if they share a research project. Based on data for the period 2006–2015 retrieved from Slovenian national information systems, two-level collaboration networks were formed with respect to researchers in the social sciences field. These networks were analyzed using a k-means-based blockmodeling approach for linked networks. The results show a high level of interdisciplinary SC and a large organizational impact on individual collaborations. On the individual level, a structure with several cohesive clusters and a semi-periphery appears while, on the organizational level, a kind a core–periphery structure emerges in which both the core and periphery can be split into several clusters. The most surprising result indicates that SC on the level of organizations is often not reflected in common published scientific papers on the individual level (and vice versa).

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Data availability

Data are based on publicly available data in the SICRIS and COBISS systems run by the Institute of Information Science and the Slovenian Research Agency. The data are available at http://www2.arnes.si/~aziber4/blockmodeling/SCtwoLevelKmeans/.

Code availability

The two-level blockmodeling approach was applied by the “kmBlock” package for the R-programming language. The package is publicly available at https://r-forge.r-project.org/R/?group_id=203. The 0.0.1 version was used. The code is available at http://www2.arnes.si/~aziber4/blockmodeling/SCtwoLevelKmeans/.

Notes

  1. 1.

    The multi-core–semi-periphery–periphery structure was not found only in Slovenia, but also in other counties, i.e., within teaching staff at the Faculty of Humanities and Education Science's Departmenr of Library Science at National University of La Plata in Argentina (Chinchilla-Rodríguez et al. 2012).

  2. 2.

    Although for the period before political turn in 1990 was characterized by periodical political interferences in the social sciences in Slovenia, the processes of professional autonomy and identity of social scientific disciplines started already in the former one-party political regime. The social scientists early began promoting empirical research rather than just follow official ideology. They introduced many new inquiry objects, branches and disciplines, and carefully cultivated their professional profiles (Kramberger and Mali 2010). The political turn in 1990 certainly improved the position of social sciences in Slovenia concerning their endeavours for a stronger autonomy, a higher professional status and internationalization of research.

  3. 3.

    If a researcher is assigned to more than one organization in the database, then an organization to which he or she jointed more recently is considered.

  4. 4.

    Exceptions were found in all studies either in the form of core–periphery structures or as a presence of bridging cores (i.e., clusters of researchers that collaborate with two other clusters of researchers, which do not collaborate).

  5. 5.

    In innovation theories and practices, regional innovation systems are on the same way as national innovation systems formed by multiple actors (firms, higher education institutions, research and technological centers, local policy decision makers etc.) interacting and giving rise to learning processes and innovations (González-López and Asheim 2020).

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Acknowledgements

We thank the anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments on the manuscript. We also thank Dr. Luka Kronegger who assisted us with helpful advice on the data acquisition.

Funding

This research was financially supported by the Slovenian Research Agency (www.arrs.gov.si) within the research program P5-0168 and the research project J7-8279 (Blockmodeling multilevel and temporal networks).

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The study was conceptualized and designed by AŽ. Material preparation and data collection were the work of MC. Formal analyses were conducted by MC and AŽ. The first draft of the manuscript was written by MC and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. The manuscript was edited by all authors after the first review. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marjan Cugmas.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Cugmas, M., Mali, F. & Žiberna, A. Scientific collaboration of researchers and organizations: a two-level blockmodeling approach. Scientometrics 125, 2471–2489 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-020-03708-x

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Keywords

  • Social networks
  • Scientific collaboration
  • Multilevel networks
  • Co-authorship networks
  • Blockmodeling