Multinational teams and diseconomies of scale in collaborative research.
Bottom Line: We also examined citation outcomes of research teams and confirmed the accumulative benefits of having additional authors and unique countries involved.However, when per capita citation rates were analyzed to disambiguate the effects of authors and countries, decreasing returns in citations were noted with increasing authors among large research teams.In contrast, an increasing number of unique countries had a persistent additive citation effect.
Affiliation: Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Collaborative research has become the mainstay in knowledge production across many domains of science and is widely promoted as a means of cultivating research quality, enhanced resource utilization, and high impact. An accurate appraisal of the value of collaborative research efforts is necessary to inform current funding and research policies. We reveal contemporary trends in collaborative research spanning multiple subject fields, with a particular focus on interactions between nations. We also examined citation outcomes of research teams and confirmed the accumulative benefits of having additional authors and unique countries involved. However, when per capita citation rates were analyzed to disambiguate the effects of authors and countries, decreasing returns in citations were noted with increasing authors among large research teams. In contrast, an increasing number of unique countries had a persistent additive citation effect. We also assessed the placement of foreign authors relative to the first author in paper bylines of biomedical research articles, which demonstrated a significant citation advantage of having an international presence in the second-to-last author position, possibly occupied by foreign primary co-investigators. Our analyses highlight the evolution and functional impact of team dynamics in research and suggest empirical strategies to evaluate team science.
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Related in: MedlinePlus
Mentions: Given a dearth of papers written by large author teams within the arts and social science disciplines, we focused our subsequent citation analyses on papers pertaining to the life, physical, and technology and engineering sciences. When we examined the underlying distribution of citations before data binning, the disassociation between author numbers and citations was apparent when author team sizes grew beyond 20 members (mega teams) in all subject fields (Fig. 3A and fig. S4). These findings suggest a declining or detrimental effect of either author or country numbers on citations. This would be consistent with diseconomies of scale observed in many human endeavors with marginal costs increasing once firms or organizations surpass an optimal mass. We tested this hypothesis using generalized linear models (GLMs) to quantify the relationship between citations and researcher team size. Specifically, we used GLMs, a generalization of linear regressions that allows for skewed distributions of response variables, because of the non-normal distribution of citations. Whereas the contribution of an additional country or author was positive and comparable when analyzing all publications in recent years, subset analyses of top-ranked papers by team size, defined by being at least within the top 1% of all papers ranked by the number of authors, countries, or institutional affiliations, showed a reduced or even deleterious effect of additional authors across different years (fig. S5, A to C). The application of different criteria for larger teams did not change our results, suggesting that decreased citations per capita among top-ranked papers are not strictly dependent on a precise definition of team sizes. However, the median author count of the top 1% of papers ranked by any authorship attribute was about 20, indicating some redundancy in the composition of analyzed papers. The citation gain related to national affiliations was largely preserved or increased among large-team papers. An expanded analysis of more than 10 million papers published over a decade also showed a decreased or inhibitory effect of author numbers on citation gains across different definitions of large team sizes after adjustment for year of publication and subject field content (Fig. 3B). Although the length of articles and number of references in a paper have been previously reported to correlate with citations, inclusion of the total number of pages or references in regression models did not change the effect or significance of our results (22, 23).
No MeSH data available.