Developing Relational Quality through International Collaborative Networks in the German Higher Education and Science System

Jennifer Dusdal, Achim Oberg, Olaf Kellermeier, Rebecca Kienast, Anna Kosmützky, Diego Kozlowski, Justin J.W. Powell


In our presentation, we historically chart the massive expansion of science production worldwide—through a focus on Germany, a leading science producer for over a century. Focusing on the following two research questions, we identify the location and institutional settings of science production in Germany, on the basis of their character, tasks, goals, and type of research: How have the institutionalized structures––and within them the different organizational forms and single organizations––influenced and changed the long-term development of science production? Through which collaboration networks is science currently developing? We investigate how scientific (co-)publications of organizations that produce scientific knowledge have developed over time. We also study the proportion and impact of interorganizational collaborative networks in Germany, with all partner organizations worldwide, and how these relationships are leveraged to maintain and enhance scientific input and output at organizational level using Social Network Analysis (SNA). The concept of “relational quality” and its development refers to interorganizational prioritization, establishment of network relationships, and related processes that lead to an improvement of scientific capacity and the reinforcement of certain performance outputs leading to various forms of collaboration. Different organizational forms and single organizations are subject to specific determining factors and have different goals and tasks. Thus, we expect to find different understandings of scientific quality and priorities related to the development of scientific and relational quality on the organizational level. Theoretically, we apply sociological neo-institutional (NI), which offers an analytical perspective that facilitates differentiation between three pillars of institutions and addresses institutionalization processes and different levels of analysis. This enables us to explore the tremendous expansion of science production in Germany, and considerable differences across time and space in the institutional settings, organizational forms, and single organizations that produce the most research as well as to analyze the organizational networks. We approach our object of investigation on comparative analysis at various levels. First, on the macro-level we use bibliometric indicators to measure the global expansion, collaboration, and production of science on the basis of peer-reviewed journal articles by scientists in different organizational forms, e.g. universities and research institutes. Second, on the meso-level, through SNA we examine the network relationships of different organizational forms and single organizations in Germany, which enables us to analyze different patterns of collaboration. We combine the results of our longitudinal bibliometric analyses (1900–2018) of collaboration patterns of universities and other research organizations in Germany’s higher education and science system with SNA. Empirically, we use published articles in leading peer-reviewed journals as a basic indicator to measure science production, based on an extensively recoded and edited database from Clarivate Analytics SCIE. We examine articles from science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health over a period from 1900 to 2018 (about 45,000 journals; 6 million research articles). This allows us to trace the tremendous growth of science production globally and the increasing institutionalization and interconnectedness of scientists in Germany. Furthermore, it will enable us to examine hypotheses on historical path dependencies of collaboration portfolios among organizational forms of science producing organizations.

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