Organizing and managing scientific research collaborations
Rimes, Heather Nicole
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This dissertation presents three independent but complementary manuscripts that offer theoretical and empirical perspectives on the organization and management of scientific research collaboration in selected science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The first manuscript, Chapter 2, proposes a typology of collaboration structures. The chapter categorizes collaborations based on two key organizing features: centralization of decision making and role specialization. It utilizes survey data to explore connections between the characteristics of individual scientists and varying combinations of these two features. Findings indicate that career length, field of study, and collaboration origin variables are significantly related to the methods which scientists use to structure their collaborative work. Also related to collaboration organization, Chapter 3 explores four collaboration characteristics: division of administrative authority, division of scientific authority, role specialization, and formalization. It employs an expanded definition of collaboration, allowing researchers to identify collaborators and describe collaborative work beyond the bounds of a single co-authored publication, and it utilizes interview data to gain a rich description of individuals’ collaboration experiences. The chapter identifies patterns across these experiences and highlights linkages between organizational features and the contextual characteristics of collaboration, including collaboration size and institutional environment. It concludes with a discussion of the ways in which contingency theory approaches can contribute to understanding the structural organizing elements of collaborations. Next, Chapter 4 turns attention to research collaboration management strategies and challenges. It reviews the scholarly literature related to collaboration management and develops an organizing scheme for considering common collaboration management challenges. It then applies the organizing scheme and expands it based on findings from semi-structured interviews, suggesting five overarching categories of management challenges: 1) excessive coordination costs, 2) managing interpersonal issues, 3) contribution and crediting dilemmas, 4) leadership issues, and 5) managing external influences. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of how the findings in each chapter intersect as well as their implications for policy and practice.