Report: International collaboration between researchers results in greater recognition

U.S. researchers who collaborate with international scientists are more likely to have their work cited than peers who do not utilize overseas expertise, according to a new study released this week by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. U.S. collaborators with international scientists are also more likely to receive greater recognition and produce work with greater impact.

The study, “International Stem Cell Collaboration: How Disparate Policies Between the United States and the United Kingdom Impact Research,” was authored by Kirstin Matthews, a fellow in science and technology policy at the Baker Institute. The findings were published this week in the open-access online journal PLoS ONE.

For their first-of-its-kind study, Matthews and co-investigators analyzed data in the biosciences area — specifically papers on stem cell research — published in 2008 by U.S. and U.K. scientists. The goal was to see if scientists from these two countries that have vibrant biomedical research programs gained anything from collaborating with peers in other countries.

“What we found was striking and significant,” Matthews said. “When U.S. stem cell researchers engage and use expertise from their international peers, they receive more citations for their work in others’ work.”

U.S.-independent articles averaged 15.0 citations, while international publications listing a U.S. scientist as the corresponding author averaged 20.3 citations. A similar trend was seen with U.K.-independent publications (10.1) compared with international publications (13.8).

While the citation rate was slightly increased for international papers on which a U.S. scientist was a secondary author, this difference was not found to be statistically significant, indicating that it is not as beneficial for U.S. authors to be secondary contributors.

“These figures suggest that scientists in both the U.K. and U.S. produce higher-impact stem cell research when collaborating with foreign counterparts,” Matthews said. “But U.S. scientists find a more dramatic increase in citation rates when they are corresponding authors.”

A literature search of 2008 publications on stem cells generated 3,176 articles that listed at least one U.S. scientist as an author and a total of 616 papers that listed at least one U.K. scientist as an author. While U.S. researchers published more than five times more often than U.K. researchers in absolute numbers, the publication rates per million inhabitants were very similar — 10.2 articles per million individuals for the U.S. and 10.0 articles per million individuals for the U.K.

Overall the U.K. collaborates the most with U.S. researchers. For the U.S. the top three collaborators were Germany, Japan and the U.K.

Matthews’ research team included Rice University senior Jingyuan Luo, who is a biochemistry and policy studies major, a Marshall Scholar and co-author on the paper.

“The Baker Institute and Rice University really stress the importance of undergraduate participation in research,” Luo said. “I gained invaluable experience conducting this project, and it has helped me better define my career goals in science policy.”

Located in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. A Tier One research university known for its “unconventional wisdom,” Rice has schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and offers its 3,485 undergraduates and 2,275 graduate students a wide range of majors. Rice has the fifth-largest endowment per student among American private research universities and is rated No. 4 for “best value” among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Its undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is less than 6-to-1. With a residential college system that builds close-knit and diverse communities and collaborative culture, Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review.

Since its inception in 1993, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public
Policy has established itself as one of the leading nonpartisan public policy think tanks in the country. With a strong track record of achievement based on the work of Rice University faculty and the institute’s endowed fellows and scholars, the institute conducts important research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. Learn more about the institute at
http://www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blogs.chron.com/bakerblog/.


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