Collaboration and competition in research – Special Issue

Hot off the press: a special issue of Higher Education Policy, co-edited by Peter van den Besselaar (Free University, Amsterdam), Sven Hemlin (University of Gothenborg, Sweden) and our colleague Inge van der Weijden (CWTS, Leiden University). The special issue is an outcome of one of the tracks at the 2010 EASST (European Association for the Study of Science and Technology) conference in Trento, Italy. All papers zoom in on competition and collaboration, two increasingly dominant components of research both within and between organizations, and often demanded simultaneously. What is the relation between the two, and what are their effects on scientific quality and on higher education?

This interview with Van den Besselaar for Inside Higher Ed zooms in on one of the articles in the special issue. To what extent is success in academic careers determined by cultural, social and intellectual capital, and organisational and contextual factors? Van Balen, Van Arensbergen, Van der Weijden and Van den Besselaar performed a literature study, held interviews, and compared the careers of pairs of similar researchers that were considered talented in their early career and either stayed in or left academia. Their findings suggest that there is not one decisive factor that determines which talented researchers continue or discontinue their academic careers. Some factors were found to be important (e.g. social capital), whereas others were not (cultural and intellectual capital). Interestingly, Van Balen et al. did not find a “systematic relationship between the career success and the academic performance of highly talented scholars, measured as the number of publications and citations.” (p. 330-331)

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