Research Network Communities
Studies about RN intensified in recent years. However, it is attributable to De Solla Price, the perception that jump-started the theme. In 1965, Solla Price published an article that reported a possible relationship between authors cited in a paper. He noted that the relationship existed and was not casual. References and citations revealed a possible connection between scientists that he called networks of scientific papers. He suggested that the correspondence between a published paper and a cited paper would be an indicator of the nature of scientific research. By searching journals of the time, almost half a century ago, De Solla Price was careful and warned about the risks of considering a cited publication as the truth about the knowledge produced by a scientist. This could be a mistake! His warning about the content of the quote, a distant background noise, remains valid in our days. Solla Price said: “Journal citation must be reckoned as merely a distant background noise, and as very far from central or strategic in any of the knitted strips from which the cloth of science is woven” (1965, p. 515). His studies have opened avenues to understand the approximations between scientists, the approximation between authors. Since then, one considers the existence of scientific paper networks as part of the cloths of science woven by papers covering determinate fields of knowledge.
In historical sequence, the reasoning was: if in the very origin of each paper there is more than one scientist, then there are connections among these authors. In 1967, Milgram found that the distance between two subjects, any given people in the world, can be of only six steps. It led to the creation of the expression: small world problem (Milgram, 1967). The realization that we are close to each other in a small world was reaffirmed by Newman (2001b, p. 404) when he showed the existence of research collaboration networks only as a short path of intermediate acquaintances.
Over the years, the topic of research and coauthorships networks was focused on by many scholars from different disciplinary affiliations. Inside the scientific domain, an RN can be defined as a web of connections among scientists and collaborators. RNs are made explicit in coauthorship intentional chains, resulting from relations among scientists, who may or may not be mediated by the Internet. The starting point is the idea that the publication ofa coauthored paper produces a measurable link between scientists, resulting from the construction of relational and personal trust links. These are the connections that mark the fourth age of research (Adams, 2012, 2013). As an SN, an RN is characterized by the symmetric or asymmetric aggregation of nodes and ties. Nodes, connected by ties, represent people, groups, companies, and institutions; these are the actors in the network.
According to Brannback (2003), a network is composed of some basic elements, such as people (actors) with common purposes, effective links that enable interaction with multiple levels, shared leadership, and independence of members to operate within and outside the network and to allow interaction (collaboration) with other network members.
Some collaboration patterns in research have been defined. For Katz and Martin (1997, p. 7), “research collaboration is the working together of researchers to achieve a common goal of producing new scientific knowledge.” In our experience, research collaboration builds a network of partners and happens due to the closeness between individuals with similar interests but different capabilities, who share their resources in order to achieve a common project. The partnership is seen as an “approximation by the difference” (the potential richness that exists when we put together researchers with different knowledge and com- plemantary knowledge), resulting in the production of new knowledge (Leite et al., 1999, p. 49). In a similar way, Stoer and Magalhaes (2003) see RNs under the principle of partnership as theoretical and methodological references; resources enhancement and cooperation may converge. This way, RNs can survive and grow with the blend of skills presented by people from different research territories. Note that it is necessary to look closely at the different kinds of collaboration; also note that research in the hard sciences is much more collaborative than the work in the humanities (Thagard, 1997). The RNs are strengthened and evolve when they use scientific capital, managing accurate information and publishing the results, delivering patents and prototypes.
A well-known network collaboration concept was given by Newman: “I study networks of scientists in which two scientists are considered connected if they have coauthored a paper” (Newman, 2001b, p. 404). Coauthorships are the key elements in a network of scientists and a standard for various uses. Coauthorships allow the quantification and measurement of the impact of scientific publications, products, patents, prototypes, and others. Researchers’ productivity can also be measured by the relation between publications and citations; generally, a greater number of coauthorships are associated with a greater volume of citations. Scientific performance and productivity measures, as we know, are the foundation of the techniques that boost ratings and rankings.
Taking a pragmatic perspective of understanding and evaluating collaboration research networks (CRN), we delimit some spaces. We take an overview of this new science, its life cycle, but we do that by examining educational and interactional aspects of RNs. It is important to highlight that interest and communication strategies are part of the networks’ functioning. And collaboration is so relevant to science progress as knowledge circulation, paradigms, and methodologies. Of course, there are relevant factors for excellence in every research field. However, for Lee and Bozeman (2005, p. 675), “despite the ubiquitous nature of collaboration in science, the benefits of collaboration are more often assumed than researched.”