Types of Cooperation and Organizational Context
Findings from a Comparative Analysis Inside and Outside of UniCat by Rober J. Schmidt, Grit Petschick, Marianne Kalinowski, Tobias Drewlani and Nina Baur
How Do Researchers Collaborate?
Modern Science does not work without cooperation. But who cooperates with whom inside and outside of the Cluster of Excellence UniCat? How do researchers cooperate, and how do they evaluate cooperation?
In order to answer this question, the Department on Methods of Social Research at TU Berlin (Nina Baur) conducted 14 semi‐structured interviews and analyzed them using QCA (qualitative content analysis).
Our analysis is based on a twofold comparison of different organizational contexts: On the one hand, we contrast forms of cooperation in UniCat with cooperation in a control group, i.e. research groups which did not participate in interdisciplinary projects or clusters. On the other hand, we compare forms of cooperation in established areas of the cluster, which had collaborated before 2007, with new projects, which have only emerged since 2007.
Relevance of Cooperation for Modern Science
Regardless of which context they come from, all interviewed scientists agreed that it was absolutely necessary to cooperate with other scientists in their projects: Collaboration is seen as vital element of scientific practice. Most scientists esteem their current collaborations as positive and see almost no problems. Only less than a third see a few problems and wish to improve the current state of interlinked work. Nearly no one describes significant problems within cooperation. It is interesting to note that these evaluations do neither differ significantly between the old and new contexts inside UniCat, nor between the cluster and the outside control group.
Types of Cooperation
Although all scientists think collaboration essential, the specific form cooperation takes can vary, e.g.: using laboratories or instruments together, working on the same topic, discussing findings or co‐publishing. The same researcher might use several or all of these forms of cooperation. In our analysis, we could identify five typical combinations of collaborative activities:
1 Disciplinary Cooperation: Some Researchers only work together with persons of the same background.
2 Beginning Interdisciplinary Cooperation through Scientific Discussions: Researchers discuss results (e.g. findings, interpretations) with members from other disciplines, but only during regular meetings. There currently is nearly no collaboration on a practical level, but researchers see opportunities for it in ongoing projects.
3 Interdisciplinary Transfer of Materials: Researchers collaborate mostly by sharing the same materials or laboratories. However, there are nearly no further discussions beyond the exchange of these resources.
4 Multidisciplinary Cooperation: Different disciplines’ research activities are intermingled on different stages of the inquiry, but different work‐packages are prepared within one discipline. Researchers see the division of labor between disciplines as an efficient way of doing science.
5 Complete Interdisciplinary Cooperation: Researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds collaborate closely, intensively and on a very a concrete level during every step of the research process. Scientific exchange and meetings are a central part of daily activities and described as absolutely necessary.
Cooperation and Organizational Context
If we assign these types of collaboration to the three organizational contexts, we can see, that outside UniCat (in the control group), there is a strong division between either disciplinary or complete interdisciplinary cooperation (types 1 or 5). In UniCat, there is a stronger tendency to collaboration through scientific discussions and to multidisciplinary cooperation (types 2 and 4). In longlasting relations, researchers tend to transfer materials (type 3). In newer projects, they tend to interdisciplinary discussions (type 2).