Collaboration and change in the research networks of five Energy Frontier Research Centers

Emphasizing the university research center model, from 2009 to 2014 the US Department of Energy (DOE) funded a first round of over 40 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) spread out among 100 institutions. Early in its implementation, however, the EFRC model received criticism from scholars warning that the arrangements of the EFRCs did not provide adequate governance structures for coordinating research efforts. In this article, we seek to begin answering a call for ‘systematic and rigorous study of the implementation of EFRCs’ by studying a sample of five EFRCs and their individual members. We find that despite lacking formal mechanisms for coordinating research, EFRCs increase coauthorships among EFRC members, especially new coauthorships. Moreover, EFRC members’ research quality increases after each EFRC is formed. Through negative-binomial regression analysis on individual researcher outcomes, we find that stronger preexisting networks increase coauthorship among EFRC members. This finding supports the idea that preexisting research collaboration networks are indicative of research coordination mechanisms that researchers have discovered or established for themselves prior to becoming members of a research center. We posit that new research centers may leverage research coordination mechanisms embedded in preexisting coauthorship relations, rather than imposing new research coordination mechanisms.

Author(s): Alexander M. Smith, Samson Yuxiu Lai, Jonah Bea-Taylor, Rebecca B. M. Hill and Nabil Kleinhenz
Organization: Georgia Institute of Technology
Source: Research Evaluation
Year: 2016

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