Webology, Volume 5, Number 4, December, 2008

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Scientific collaboration and quality of scientific research

Alireza Noruzi, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief

There are indications in the literature that scientific collaborations increase the quality of papers, research productivity, and the number of citations (e.g., Katz and Martin, 1997; Hollis, 2001; Frenken, Hotzel, & De Vor, 2005; Figg et al., 2006). A simple study on the top 100 most-cited papers from the top 10 universities also confirms this. I selected the top 10 universities from the Academic Ranking of World Universities (2008) and then for each university I chose 10 most-cited papers. For this I conducted a search in the "Affiliation Search" box of Scopus for each university, and the resulting papers were ranked by the number of citations (ordered by "Cited By") that each paper has received since its publication until 2009, and then I examined the top 10 highly-cited papers (see Table 1).

Table 1. The number of co-authored papers occurrences in the top ten universities
World Rank University No. of co-authored papers No. of single-authored papers
1 Harvard University 8 2
2 Stanford University 10  
3 University of California - Berkeley 8 2
4 University of Cambridge 8 2
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 8 2
6 California Institute of Technology 10  
7 Columbia University 8 2
8 Princeton University 7 3
9 University of Chicago 6 4
10 University of Oxford 10  
Total   83 17

The table shows that only a small fraction of the top 100 papers ranked by the number of citations (17 of 100) were published by single authors. In other words, most of the papers (83%) were the results of scientific collaborations by two or more authors. It is obvious that the majority of the top 100 papers produced by the top 10 universities are co-authored papers and thus are collaborative works. In other words, a published paper resulting from collaborative work has a higher chance of attracting more citations.

This study indicates that there is a significant relationship between the high citation counts and co-authorships, i.e. highly cited papers are mainly co-authored. It seems that team working has a direct impact on the quality of papers and the number of citations. While the regulations for promotion of academics in many countries might not be very helpful for encouraging team-working, we can see that collaboration and team working has many benefits, including the increased quality of the scientific publications.


Bibliographic information of this paper for citing:

Noruzi, Alireza (2008).   "Editorial: Scientific collaboration and quality of scientific research."   Webology, 5(4), editorial 18. Available at: http://www.webology.org/2008/v5n4/editorial18.html

Copyright © 2008, Alireza Noruzi.