One-size-fits-all collaborative scientific careers? A social network analysis of chemists' co-authorship.

Marine Bernard, Marie Ferru, Bastien Bernela


Science studies have largely integrated social network analysis to measure the impact of network structure and position indicators on researchers’ performance (Abbasi and al., 2006; Hou and al., 2008; Yan, 2010; Fischbach, 2011; Ortega, 2014; Arnaboldi et al., 2016). These works mainly aim to understand the impact of traditional network indicators on performance (patents, g-index, h-index …) at macro and organizational scales. Nevertheless, to our knowledge, few articles describe the co-authorship networks at the individual scale revising how researchers’ networks evolve all along their career. To fill this gap, we chose to focus our study on a sample of researchers with achieved career and for whom the performance does not require being evaluated. Thus, our goal is not testing the network impact on researcher’s performance: we aim to describe the structure and positioning of co-authorship ego-centred networks of “performing” researchers along their career. We investigate the existence of a singularity or a plurality of co-authorship typologies at different levels (spatial dispersion of alter, renewal of alter, generation homophily, alter centrality, etc.). We finally search to answer the following questions: Is there a unique way in collaborating and diffusing knowledge along the career? If not, are there different strategies of collaboration to reach career achievement? Then, our original bibliometric database studies 80 “performing” chemists (who are CNRS Research Directors or Full Professors) from two French laboratories. We collected their 9310 publications in which they collaborated 41628 times with 14783 alter. We enriched this database with complementary data at three levels. The first one is about doctoral supervision as we collected the list of ego’s thesis supervisor(s) and PhD student(s), in order to characterise the level of hierarchy and social proximity between ego and alter: Is alter the current/former ego’s thesis supervisor? Is alter the current/former ego’s PhD student? The second level is the description of alter: we collected data related to gender, graduation of PhD diploma (as a signal of membership of academic research and high qualification) and the year of this graduation (i.e. generation). The third level relates to the geographic location of ego and alter for each collaboration and their distance (same laboratory, same city, same country or international). Therefore, we created relational indicators to characterise each collaboration, the relationship between ego and alter in terms of homophily (gender, graduation of PhD diploma, generation, geographic location) and potential mentoring relationship. The departure point is to question the singularity of collaboration styles’ dynamics within careers of CNRS Research Director and Full Professor. Have these researchers a common collaboration trajectory? Secondly, if we reject this hypothesis, we establish a typology of collaborations, describing these relationships and their dynamics. This typology aims to identify the different mechanisms and strategies of collaborations used by “performing” researchers along their career.

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