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Scientific knowledge production and research collaboration between Australia and South Korea: patterns and dynamics based on co-authorship

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Australia and Korea are two middle-power countries and significant R&D centers in Asia and the Pacific region, with close economic and security partnerships. This study is the first empirical research to examine the patterns and dynamics of research collaboration in Science and Technology between the two countries, using a bibliometric analysis of co-authored academic publications. The relative specialization of scientific knowledge production analyzed for each country shows that Australia and Korea take different paths in terms of their research focus and are inversely specialized. While having a complementary competence lays a good foundation in scientific cooperation, it also means they do not have a shared field of excellence and of mutual support. We also found that in areas where multilateral collaboration is more prevailing, the effect of third country participation (e.g. U.S. and China) is considerable in bringing together Australian and Korean researchers. In terms of the motives of research collaboration, personal ties turned out to be a strong force. We suggest that national level top-down policies by the governments, institutional level exchanges of researchers and students, and individual level networking opportunities may be helpful to boost and sustain research collaboration between Australia and Korea.

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  1. A middle-power state generally refers to one that is”neither great nor small in terms of their power, capacity and influence and exhibits the capability to create cohesion and obstruction toward global order and governance” (Jordaan 2003, p. 165).

  2. RSI = AI − 1/AI + 1 where AI = the share of the given field in the publications of the given country/the share of the given the field in the world total of publications.

  3. The publications with more than 50 authors are excluded as, in most cases, they involve limited interactions among individual authors. Limited interactions make it hard to evaluate legitimate contributions of collaboration. The distribution of publications by the number of authors per paper show that those with authors in excess of 50 constitute less than 15% of the total co-authored publications.

  4. IRB No. 7001988-201910-HR-612-03.

  5. 2008 is the most recent year of data that is available from UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Given the industrial capacities and strategies of Australia and Korea, it can be assumed that the overall trend is not significantly varied.

  6. Universities in Korea tend to provide incentives to their academic faculty for publishing internationally co-authored articles in order to increase their scores in renowned university ranking systems. For instance, Best Global Universities Ranking issued by US News and World Report considers the percentage of total publications with international collaboration as an evaluation indicator. Similarly, QS University Rankings has an indicator on “international research network”, which assesses the level of international research collaboration in the university concerned.

  7. Signed on 5 March 2009 by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, the Joint Statement outlined an ambitious nine-point “Action Plan” for upgrading the bilateral strategic partnership across a range of political, military, and security activities (Lee 2019a).


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This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2018S1A5B8A02082240), and the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

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Correspondence to Heejin Lee.

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Choi, M., Lee, H. & Zoo, H. Scientific knowledge production and research collaboration between Australia and South Korea: patterns and dynamics based on co-authorship. Scientometrics 126, 683–706 (2021).

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