2012 DISSERTATION: Impacts of an Interdisciplinary Research Center on Participant Publication and Collaboration Activities

Interdisciplinary research centers are typically presented as a means for exploiting opportunities in science where the complexity of the research problem calls for sustained interaction among multiple disciplines. This study analyzed the effects of an interdisciplinary research center (NIMBioS) on the publication and collaboration behaviors of faculty affiliated with the center. The study also sought to determine what factors contributed to these effects for participants whose publication and collaboration behaviors were changed the most after affiliation.

The study employed a mixed-method case study approach, using quantitative bibliometric data along with qualitative data collected from interviews. Publication data for each participant in the study was collected from Web of Science (WOS) and analyzed by year against several demographic control variables to understand what effect affiliation with NIMBioS had on publication behaviors of participants. In addition to bibliometrics, a selection of study participants who demonstrated the most change in publication and collaboration behaviors since their affiliation with NIMBioS were interviewed to determine (a) what benefits (if any) participants felt they achieved as a result of participating in their working group, and (b) what factors (if any) participants felt may have contributed to the impact of NIMBioS affiliation on their publication and collaboration behavior.

Results of the study indicate that affiliation with a NIMBioS working group has a significant positive effect on participant collaboration activities (i.e. number of co-authors, number of international co-authors, number of cross-institutional co-authors), and a moderate effect on publication activities (i.e. publishing in new fields). Qualitative analysis of interdisciplinarity showed a shift in publication WOS subject categories (SCs) toward mathematical fields. Factors contributing to success cited by interviewees included organized leadership, a positive atmosphere, breaking into sub-groups, and the ability to collaborate with researchers with whom they would not have interacted outside of the group.

Doctoral candidate: Pamela Rene Bishop
University: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Committee Members: Schuyler W. Huck, Jennifer K. Richards, Bonnie H. Ownley
Degree program: Doctor of Philosophy – Educational Psychology and Research
Year: 2012

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