Higher Education Policy

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 289–311 | Cite as

Collaborating in Life Science Research Groups: The Question of Authorship

  • Ruth Müller
Article

Abstract

This qualitative study explores how life science postdocs’ perceptions of contemporary academic career rationales influence how they relate to collaboration within research groups. One consequential dimension of these perceptions is the high value assigned to publications. For career progress, postdocs consider producing publications and especially first author publications essential. This strong focus on publications is influential for how postdocs prefer to organize the socio-epistemic processes of their research work. To ensure first authorship, avoid authorship conflicts and keep the number of co-authors low, they articulate a preference for working mainly individually. Existing collaborations and support relationships are frequently assessed in terms of whether they will have to share or lose authorship. Hence, while formally, the life sciences have become more collaborative, postdocs report that in their day-to-day practices, they try to avoid collaboration. By drawing attention to this tension, the author aims to contribute to a growing debate about incentive systems in academic science and their unexpected negative side effects.

Keywords

collaboration competition authorship biology career qualitative research Austria 

References

  1. Abt, H.A. (2007) ‘The future of single-authored papers’, Scientometrics 73 (3): 353–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ackers, L. (2008) ‘Internationalisation, mobility and metrics: A new form of indirect discrimination?’ Minerva 46 (4): 411–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angrosino, M.V. (1997) ‘Among the savage anthros: Reflections on the SAS oral history project’, Southern Anthropologist 24 (2): 25–32.Google Scholar
  4. Angrosino, M.V. and Mays de Perez, K.A. (2003) ‘Rethinking Observation: From Method to Context’, in N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds.) Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials, 2nd edn., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 673–702.Google Scholar
  5. Biagioli, M. (1998) ‘The instability of authorship: credit and responsibility in contemporary biomedicine’, The FASEB Journal 12 (1): 3–16.Google Scholar
  6. Blumer, H. (1954) ‘What is wrong with social theory?’ American Sociological Review 18 (1): 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blumer, H. (1969) Symbolic Interactionism. Perspective and Method, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  8. Bowen, G.A. (2006) ‘Grounded theory and sensitizing concepts’, International Journal of Qualitative Methods 5 (3): 1–9.Google Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, P. (1975) ‘The specificity of the scientific field and the social conditions of the progress of reason’, Social Science Information 14 (6): 19–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chamaz, K. (2006) Constructing Grounded Theory. A Practical Guide for Qualitative Analysis, London: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Edge, D. (1979) ‘Quantitative measurements of communication in science: A critical review’, History of Science 17: 102–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. European Commission. (2000) Presidency Conclusions, Lisbon: European Council.Google Scholar
  13. Felt, U. (ed) (2009) Knowing and Living in Academic Research. Convergence and Heterogeneity in Research Cultures in the European Context, Prague: Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.Google Scholar
  14. Felt, U. and Fochler, M. (2013) ‘The reflexive peer-to-peer-interview. Developing a method to study the intertwinement of epistemic, institutional and social aspects in scientists’ biographical narratives’, Qualitative Research, Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  15. Felt, U., Fochler, M. and Strassnig, M. (2010) ‘Experimente partizipativer ELSA-forschung. Eine methodenpolitische reflexion’, in E. Grießler and H. Rohracher (eds.) Genomforschung – Politik – Gesellschaft. Perspektiven auf ethische, rechtliche und soziale Aspekte der Genomforschung, Sonderband ÖZS, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, pp. 33–67.Google Scholar
  16. Fontana, A. and Frey, J.H. (2003) ‘The Interview: From Structured Questions to Negotiated Text’, in N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds.) Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 61–106.Google Scholar
  17. Gunasekara, C. (2007) ‘Pivoting the centre: Reflections on undertaking qualitative interviewing in academia’, Qualitative Research 7 (4): 461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hackett, E. (ed) (2005) ‘Special guest-edited issue on scientific collaboration’, Social Studies of Science 35 (5): 667–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (1983) Ethnography. Principles in Practice, London & New York: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  20. Heinze, T. and Kuhlmann, S. (2008) ‘Across institutional boundaries? Research collaboration in German public sector nanoscience’, Research Policy 37 (5): 888–899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holstein, J.A. and Gubrium, J.F. (1997) ‘Active interviewing’, in D. Silverman (ed.) Qualitative research: Theory, Method and Practice, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 113–129.Google Scholar
  22. Katz, J.S. and Martin, B.R. (1997) ‘What is research collaboration?’ Research Policy 26 (1): 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Knorr-Cetina, K. (1999) Epistemic Cultures. How the Sciences Make Knowledge, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Krücken, G., Kosmützky, A. and Torka, M. (eds) (2007) Towards a Multiversity? Universities between Global Trends and National Traditions, Bielefeld: Transcript.Google Scholar
  25. Laudel, G. (2001) ‘Collaboration, creativity and rewards: Why and how scientists collaborate’, International Journal of Technology Management 22 (7/8): 762–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Laudel, G. (2002) ‘What do we measure by co-authorships?’ Research Evaluation 11 (1): 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Laudel, G. and Gläser, J. (2008) ‘From apprentice to colleague: The metamorphosis of early career researchers’, Higher Education 55 (3): 387–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Macfarlane, B. (2005) ‘The disengaged academic: The retreat from citizenship’, Higher Education Quarterly 59 (4): 296–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Merton, R.K. (1942) The Sociology of Science. Theoretical and Empirical Investigations, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  30. Müller, R. and Kenney, M.J. (2013) ‘Agential conversations. On interviewing life scientists and the politics of mundane research practices’, Science as Culture, Submitted manuscript.Google Scholar
  31. Nature. (2003) ‘Victims of success’, Nature 422 (6929): 354–355.Google Scholar
  32. Nature. (2009) ‘Authorship policies. Editorial’, Nature 458 (7242): 1078.Google Scholar
  33. Nowotny, H. and Felt, U. (1997) After the Breakthrough. The Emergence of High-Temperature Superconductivity as a Research Field, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nowotny, H., Scott, P. and Gibbons, M. (2001) Re-thinking Science. Knowledge in an Age of Uncertainty, Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  35. Parker, J.N., Vermeulen, N. and Penders, B. (eds) (2010) Collaboration in the New Life Sciences, Farnham/Burlington: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  36. Pickstone, J.V. (2000) Ways of Knowing. A New History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  37. Power, M. (1997) The Audit Society. Rituals of Verification, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Price, D.J.de Solla (1963) Little Science, Big Science, New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Salonius, A. (2012) ‘Social organization of work in biomedical labs in leading universities in Canada: Socio-historical dynamics and the influence of research funding’, Social Studies of Science, Manuscript accepted pending revisions.Google Scholar
  40. Scaffidi, A.K. and Berman, J.E. (2011) ‘A positive postdoctoral experience is related to quality supervision and career mentoring, collaborations, networking and a nurturing research environment’, Higher Education 62 (6): 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Science. (2005) ‘Not your father’s postdoc. Editorial feature’, Science 308 (5722): 717–718.Google Scholar
  42. Science. (2010) ‘Promoting scientific standards. Editorial’, Science 327 (5961): 12.Google Scholar
  43. Shapin, S. (1990) ‘The mind is its own place. Science and solitude in seventeenth-century England’, Science in Context 4 (1): 91–218.Google Scholar
  44. Shrum, W.M. (2010) ‘Collaborationism’, in J.N. Parker, N. Vermeulen and B. Penders (eds.) Collaboration in the New Life Sciences, Farnham/Burlington: Ashgate, pp. 247–258.Google Scholar
  45. Shrum, W.M., Genuth, J. and Chompalov, I. (2007) Structures of Scientific Collaborations, Cambridge, MA & London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  46. Silverman, D. (2006) Interpreting Qualitative Data. Methods for Analysing Talk, Text and Interaction, London: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. Sommerlund, J. and Boutaiba, S. (2007) ‘Borders of the boundaryless career’, Journal of Organizational Change Management 20 (4): 525–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stephan, P. (2012) How Economics Shapes Science, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Strathern, M. (ed) (2000) Audit Cultures. Anthropological Studies in Accountability, Ethics and the Academy, London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Strauss, A. and Corbin, J. (1998) Basics of Qualitative Research. Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory 2nd edn., Thousand Oaks, London & New Delhi: Sage.Google Scholar
  51. The Scientist. (2006) ‘Are we training too many scientists?’ The Scientist 20 (9): 42.Google Scholar
  52. The Scientist. (2007) ‘Managing authorship’, The Scientist 21 (11): 92.Google Scholar
  53. Torka, M. (2009) Die Projektförmigkeit der Forschung. Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung 3, Baden-Baden: Nomos.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. van den Hoonaard, W.C. (1997) Working with Sensitizing Concepts: Analytical Field Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  55. Vermeulen, N. (2009) Supersizing Science: On Building Large-Scale Research Projects in Biology, Maastricht: Maastricht University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Weinberg, A.M. (1961) ‘Impact of large-scale science on the United States’, Science 134 (3473): 161–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wray, K.B. (2002) ‘The epistemic significance of collaborative research’, Philosophy of Science 69 (1): 150–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wray, K.B. (2006) ‘Scientific authorship in the age of collaborative research’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 37 (3): 505–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Ynalvez, M.A. and Shrum, W.M. (2010) ‘Professional networks, scientific collaboration, and publication productivity in resource-constrained research institutions in a developing country’, Research Policy 40 (2): 204–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Association of Universities 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Müller
    • 1
  1. 1.Austria & Department of Social Studies of ScienceAustrian Institute for International Affairs – oiip, Berggasse 7, 1090 Vienna, University of ViennaViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations