In their contribution, Jennifer Dusdal and Justin Powell, both from the University of Luxembourg, discussed the potentials and insights of the method of autoethnography to conduct studies of intercultural and multidisciplinary research collaborations based on a retrospective case study of the sociology of science project. In their study, they applied the novel method of autoethnography to examine teamwork benefits, motivations, and challenges. In this endeavor, the perspectives of scientific team members are important to better understand the dynamics of durable collaboration networks. The study, spanning North America, Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia, focused on collaborators' characteristics and evolving perceptions of team dynamics as well as research outputs over a decade. Thus, crucial aspects in successful collaboration are studied in-depth and longitudinally.
The results point to key challenges, including spatial distance and differences of culture, language, and career stage as well as issues of trust and social relationships. Internationally comparative research projects are complex and demanding, especially when data from different contexts must be gathered and compared, taking into account that team members may well have contrasting cultural, disciplinary, and methodological backgrounds. Furthermore, researchers work within specific institutional and organizational research conditions—in ever-shifting networks—and this has considerable implications for ongoing collaborations. Although collaborative projects have unrecognized or underappreciated costs—often difficult to measure and monitor—researchers are motivated to maintain existing relationships, grow their scientific network, and collaborate to learn from others. This increased motivation to invest reflects that successful national and international collaborations provide findings beyond what one team could achieve alone.
In their presentation, Dusdal and Powell also discussed autoethnography's methodological potentials and pitfalls as a research method using researchers' own experiences to describe and evaluate beliefs, practices, and experiences in particular contexts. This method recognizes and values researchers' social embeddedness. More than a method, it describes research processes and simultaneously serves as the product of research. It acknowledges and uncovers often hidden but essential drivers of social research, namely subjectivity, and personal connections. Such relationships are difficult to observe with standard methods––often quantitative––in science, such as scientometrics, that focus only on the most visible results of the collaboration.
Anna Kosmützky (Leibniz University Hannover) and Romy Wöhlert (Kindervereinigung Leipzig e.V.) focused on the organizational side of collaborative research projects. Due to research governance and funding transformations, especially project-based collaborative research has grown. Whereas there is quite some research on collaborative research in the natural sciences, knowledge on the specifics of research collaboration in the social sciences is sparse. However, it is most likely that research projects in the social sciences and the natural sciences differ in some respects, e.g., the project logic, the decomposability of the research process /opportunities of a division of labor, and the local embeddedness. Specificities of collaborative social science research projects in these respects also might affect the researchers' ability to (successfully) collaborate.
Based on the temporary organization framework perspective, Kosmützky and Wöhlert presented results from a preparatory empirical study of the task, time, team, member, and context dimension of their own eight collaborative research projects (national, international, comparative, non-comparative, basic, applied, etc.). They investigated the relationship between different forms of collaborative knowledge production, the collaborative research process, and the achievement of goals (both scientific and management goals) in collaborative research processes. As a preparatory study, the presented results provide an essential foundation for further detailed investigations of collaborative research projects in the social sciences based on project ethnography, interviews, and document analysis. Future research will focus on the actual practices of scientific knowledge production and the challenges that may arise therein due to the task-related, team-related, and context-related complexity of collaborative research teams.
Anna and Romy will present their arguments in more detail in the research colloquium at HdHf Dortmund on January 19th, 2021: https://hdhf.zhb.tu-dortmund.de/forschung/forschungskolloquium/kolloquien-2022/kosmuetzky-woehlert
As a side-note that relates the final discussion of the benefits-and-challenges workshop to the Q-KNOW project: the wrap-up discussion of the workshop focused on the relationship between organizational sociology (or organization research) and sociology of science (or science studies). Participants agreed that both perspectives are needed for the investigation of research collaboration. However, research that investigates research collaboration either does so from an organizational perspective and focuses on the organization of collaborative research or collaborations among organizations. Or it takes the sociology of science perspective and focuses on knowledge production in interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research settings—without taking the organizational side of such settings sufficiently into account. For future research, more linkages between both research trajectories seemed important.