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NAVIGATING INTERDISCIPLINARY COLLABORATION Funded by the National Science Foundation Biocomplexity in the Environment Program Diana Rhoten (PI) http://www.hybridvigor.net/publications.pl?s=interdis. What Did We Want to Know?. Study Objectives and Questions.

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NAVIGATING

INTERDISCIPLINARY COLLABORATION

Funded by the National Science Foundation Biocomplexity in the Environment Program

Diana Rhoten (PI)

http://www.hybridvigor.net/publications.pl?s=interdis



Study objectives and questions
Study Objectives and Questions

  • Model the structure of research networks in different “interdisciplinary” research centers

Axel

  • Assess the effect of individual, organizational, and relational factors on the structure of these research networks

Rudi

Jun

  • Analyze the dynamics and outcomes of the network’s collaborative (inter)activities

Saul

Ike

Ed


Network characteristics
Network Characteristics

Nature of (Inter)Activity

Who? (position, discipline)

How? (forum, venue)

When? (frequency, duration)

Why? (necessity, novelty)

What? (production, innovation)

Degree of (Inter)Disciplinarity


Study sample n 6 centers n 935 researchers
Study Sample(N=6 centers, N=935 researchers)

  • Organizational Size

  • Organizational Age

  • Organizational Type

  • Diversity by Field

    (53% life, 21% physical, 8% engineering, 8% environmental, 5% social, ~1% humanities, and ~1% computational/ mathematical, 3% unknown)

  • Diversity by Rank

    (27% nontenure, 25% professor, 18% graduate student, 9% postdoc, 9% associate professor, 8% assistant professor, 1% PI/Director, 3% unknown)

  • Organizational Structure


Individual Collaboration

Center 1 is one example of an individual collaboration

center


Institutional Collaboration

Center 2 is an example of an institutional collaboration

center


“Team” Collaboration

Center 5 is an example of a team collaboration center



A Few Aggregate Statistics

(N1=632 respondents, N2=605 respondents)

  • On average, researchers in a center commit about 52% of TOTAL WORK TIME to center-related activities

  • Of total current research connections in a center, a mean of 84% of RELATIONS were INITIATED POST-CENTER

  • Researchers in a center interact with a mean of 10 other researchers WEEKLY or MORE, and 14 researchers MONTHLY or LESS

  • 76% of the researchers employ INFORMAL FACE-TO-FACE FORUMS as their VENUE OF COLLABORATION


A Few Aggregate Statistics

  • 60% of the researchers believe that the research he/she does INSIDE the center ismulti-/inter-disciplinary

    • (52% have ≥1 interdisciplinary knowledge producing collaboration)

  • 51% of the researchers describe the work they do OUTSIDE the center as multi- or interdisciplinary

  • 83% of the researchers believe that his/her participation in the center has positively influenced his/her RESEARCH

  • 74% of the researchers believe that his/her participation has positively influenced his/her CAREER

    • (16% of graduate students believe it has had an explicitly negative effect)


A Few Key Cross-Center Themes

  • Multidisciplinary more than Interdisciplinary

    While the centers have initiated new research networks with representation of various disciplines, they tend to be more multidisciplinary than interdisciplinary and to demonstrate pockets of disciplinary collaborations connected by fewer cross-disciplinary ties


Discipline

= Chemical Engineering

= Hydro Engineering

= Civil/Enviro Engineering

= Mechanical Engineering

= Industrial Engineering

= Ecology

= Eng Public Policy

= Sustain/ Resource Mgt

= Applied Mathematics

= Applied Physics

= Applied Anthropology

= History of Science

= Decision Science

= Risk Analysis/Assess

= Epidemiology

= Env Soc Sci Policy

= Resource Economics

= Land Use Geography

= Behavioral Economics

Multi- more than Inter- Disciplinary

Center 2 demonstrates “disciplinary pocket” pattern found in most centers, particularly at level of knowledge producing

Network Measures

Density = 8%

Cohesion = 2.6

Ave. Centrality = 5

Shows all CLOSE connections by DISCIPLINE/FIELD

based on responses to the following survey item:

“Please indicate the strength of your relationship with other center affiliates.”


Multi- more than Inter- Disciplinary

Center 3 demonstrates the even more dramatic pattern of segregation of researchers by fields of science

Science Field

= Engineering

= Physical Sciences

= Life Sciences

= Social Sciences

= Comp & Math Sciences

= Environmental Sci Eng

= Environmental Soc Sci

= Arts & Humanities

Network Measures

Density = 10%

Cohesion = 2.6

Ave. Centrality = 6

Shows all CLOSE connections by SCIENCE

based on responses to the following survey item:

“Please indicate the strength of your relationship with other center affiliates.”


A Few Key Cross-Center Themes

  • Multidisciplinary more than Interdisciplinary

    While the centers have initiated new research networks with representation of various disciplines, they tend to be more multidisciplinary than interdisciplinary and to demonstrate pockets of disciplinary collaborations connected by fewer cross-disciplinary ties

  • More Information Sharing than Knowledge Producing

    On average, researchers have 8information sharing vs. 6 knowledge producing collaborations in general and 5 interdisciplinary information sharing vs. 3 interdisciplinary knowledge producing collaborations


Interdisciplinary Information Sharing

Center 1 networks illustrate the role of information sharing collaborations …

Science

= Engineering

= Physical Sciences

= Life Sciences

= Social Sciences

= Comp & Math Sciences

= Environmental Sci Eng

= Environmental Soc Sci

= Arts & Humanities

Network Measures

Density = 47%

Cohesion = 1.6

Ave. Centrality = 8

Shows all CLOSE and COLLEGIAL INTERDISCIPLINARY connections by SCIENCE

based on responses to the following survey item:

“Please indicate the strength of your relationship with other center affiliates.”


Interdisciplinary Information Sharing

in the density of the interdisciplinary research networks in most centers

Science

= Engineering

= Physical Sciences

= Life Sciences

= Social Sciences

= Comp & Math Sciences

= Environmental Sci Eng

= Environmental Soc Sci

= Arts & Humanities

Network Measures

Density = 16%

Cohesion = 2.3

Ave. Centrality = 3

Shows all CLOSE INTERDISCIPLINARY connections by SCIENCE

based on responses to the following survey item:

“Please indicate the strength of your relationship with other center affiliates.”


A Few Key Cross-Center Themes

  • Network “Hubs”

    While center directors/PI’s tend to be network “hubs”, graduate students are among the most central researchers in the network -- particularly at the level of knowledge production


Position

= Professor

= Associate Professor

= Assistant Professor

= Post Doc

= Graduate Research Asst

= Non-Tenure Researcher

= Center Director

Network “Hubs”

Center 4 demonstrates the common network pattern in which “hub” positions are occupied by directors/PIs and the central “core” is dominated by graduate students

Network Measures

Density = 39%

Cohesion = 1.6

Ave. Centrality = 15

Shows all CLOSE and COLLEGIAL connections by POSITION

based on responses to the following survey item:

“Please indicate the strength of your relationship with other center affiliates.”


A Few Key Cross-Center Themes

  • Network “Hubs”

    While center directors/PI’s tend to be network “hubs”, graduate students are among the most central researchers in the network -- particularly at the level of knowledge production

  • Network “Bridges”

    • Graduate students and non-tenure track scientists tend to serve as the interdisciplinary “bridges” in the center networks. They often come from “hybrid” disciplines, have higher rates of previous interdisciplinary exposure, and/or are methodologists/ technicians versus content experts


Network “Bridges”

Center 2 illustrates the centrality of researchers with “hybrid” backgrounds in interdisciplinary knowledge producing networks

Science

= Engineering

= Physical Sciences

= Life Sciences

= Social Sciences

= Comp & Math Sciences

= Environ Sci/Eng Pol

= Environmental Soc Sci

= Arts & Humanities

s

Network Measures

Density = 5%

Cohesion = 3.4

Ave. Centrality = 3

Shows all CLOSE INTERDISCIPLINARY connections by SCIENCE

based on responses to the following survey item:

“Please indicate the strength of your relationship with other center affiliates.”


Network “Bridges”

Removing them, demonstrates their importance to the overall connectivity of an interdisciplinary research network

Science

= Engineering

= Physical Sciences

= Life Sciences

= Social Sciences

= Comp & Math Sciences

= Environ Sci/Eng Pol

= Environmental Soc Sci

= Arts & Humanities

Shows all CLOSE INTERDISCIPLINARY connections by SCIENCE (bridges removed)

based on responses to the following survey item:

“Please indicate the strength of your relationship with other center affiliates.”


Network “Bridges”

Center 4 does the same …

Science Field

= Engineering

= Physical Sciences

= Life Sciences

= Social Sciences

= Comp & Math Sciences

= Environmental Sci Eng

= Environmental Soc Sci

= Arts & Humanities

Network Measures

Density = 4%

Cohesion = n/a

Ave. Centrality = 2

Shows all CLOSE INTERDISCIPLINARY connections by SCIENCE

based on responses to the following survey item:

“Please indicate the strength of your relationship with other center affiliates.”


Network “Bridges”

The network falls apart when the 7 “bridges” are removed

Science Field

= Engineering

= Physical Sciences

= Life Sciences

= Social Sciences

= Comp & Math Sciences

= Environmental Sci Eng

= Environmental Soc Sci

= Arts & Humanities

Shows all CLOSE INTERDISCIPLINARY connections by SCIENCE (bridges removed)

based on responses to the following survey item:

“Please indicate the strength of your relationship with other center affiliates.”


A Few Key Cross-Center Themes

  • Center Size

    Large centers (60+) may increase the average amount of information sharing collaborations between researchers but do not appear to increase the number of knowledge producing relations. Large centers may actually decrease the average number of interdisciplinary knowledge producing collaborations.

  • Center Age

    The length of researcher relations and the frequency of their interactions are more significant than the age of the research center in terms of network cohesiveness.

    Knowledge creating collaborations seem to peak between 3 and 6 years, whereas information sharing collaborations can often peak immediately.


A Few Key Cross-Center Themes

  • Organizing Principle

    Collaboration practices and products benefit from a unifying vision, a common problem, a shared tool (methodological, technological) – “boundary object” – that could ground and guide the work

  • Nature of Research

    Experimental and applied research projects tend to lend themselves better to collaborative work –particularly interdisciplinary collaboration –than theoretical research


A Few Key Cross-Center Themes

  • From Source to Structure

    Interdisciplinary collaboration can be motivated by intellectual curiosity, scientific opportunity, technical necessity, resource paucity, political priority, social proximity. The nature of the motivation has – should have – direct implications for the structure of the collaboration and thus the host center.

  • Publication, Application, Innovation

    About 30% of all knowledge producing collaborations in these centers had NOT resulted in a “scholarly” publication. About 60% of those are identified as interdisciplinary knowledge producing activities. Outputs include items for other media outlets, policy discussions, program design, product development, etc.


A Few Key Cross-Center Themes

  • Personnel, Personalities, and Progress

    Productive interdisciplinary collaborations require the “right” scientific and technical expertise as well as the “right” social and management skills to serve the project and evolve the process.

Amey and Brown, 2002


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