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Collaboration in Research Groups and Networks: Differences and Similarities

In this chapter, we begin by looking at how researchers perceive their work and, more specifically, their networking. We showed the speeches of the researchers from different disciplinary fields and countries. As a counterpoint to their personal and individual understanding, to their view about

Table 4.1 Research group RBBIO case study


Research Network on Biodiversity in the Biomes Cerrado, Amazonian Forest, and Pantanal of the State of Mato Grosso (RBBIO) Address: grupo/9462216832437375

Institutional affiliation

Graduate Program in Environmental Sciences, Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso (Unemat)—public institution supported by the state of Mato Grosso.

Leading researcher

Dr. Carolina Joana da Silva (doctoral degree in Ecology and Natural Resources).

Knowledge areas

To study the three biomes of Mato Grosso (Cerrado, Pantanal, and Amazonian Forest), RBBIO integrates knowledge from specialized fields such as Limnology, Biodiversity, Bioecology, Ethnobiology, Ethnoecology, and Ethnobotany to the areas of Environmental Sciences and Genetics.

Associated networks

Network for Graduate Studies and Research on Biodiversity and Biotechnology of the Legal Amazon—(Rede Bionorte). Subnetwork Climate Change and Regional Development (Rede Clima).

Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation’s Center- West Network on Biodiversity and Biotechnology (Rede Pro-Centro-Oeste).

Group history

RBBIO was founded in 2009 as an unfolding of the debate on the 1st Workshop for Research Groups and Graduate Programs of Unemat. The objective was to create a network for graduate studies and research on biodiversity of the Matogrossense biomes. The network’s establishment was made possible because financial support for its projects was approved by the Brazilian Funding Authority for Studies and Projects (Finep), linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Network intentionality

There is an emphasis in innovation: seeking connections to answer problems brought up by economic reality. Knowledge production takes up the perspective of technical innovation, generating science applied to the productive sector.

Collaboration process

The group’s performance shows an intentional broadening of spaces and channels for the collaborative production of knowledge with other networks in order to contribute to regional and national development. Connection among researchers is fostered by partnerships established through international agreements, travels, coordination, and knowledge management. The resort to teamwork to produce publication is supported by the intensive use of electronic resources.

Table 4.1 (continued)

Research collaboration connectivity

The network connects a university campus located in a remote city in the Matogrossense Pantanal to researchers working in very distant institutions, in Brazil and abroad, in countries such as the Netherlands and Germany. These connections include universities, federal institutes, state secretaries, foundations, and firms.



Research works involve researchers from institutions situated far from the investigated biomes, in Brazil and abroad. Research results are published in Brazilian journals both in Portuguese and English, as well as in foreign journals. Articles present multiple coauthorships, showing multiple collaborations both in the research and in the communication processes.

Source: The authors, 2016

collaborative networks, we selected and described their articles’ coauthorship graphs. The chapter presents also a case study on biodiversity and the leader’ s graph.

A brief analysis of the graph’s disposal shows that networks do not have the same evolution. Sometimes, the coauthorship graph does not confirm either the excellence or the researcher’s visibility. From this, we believe that networks require time to form and require resources and catalyst actions by their leaders and senior researchers. It is not enough just to be a good researcher; leading a research group needs soft skills related to building trust and to manage collaboration between all networks’ members. This includes the concern about expanding the research work and increasing the visibility of what is being done. By looking at 10 years’ production of articles of some researchers, one can still find some incipient connections in terms of coauthorships and collaborative research.

On the other hand, it seems clear that the networks of international partners, with the national extra group and intragroup researchers plus international collaborators, are desirable outcomes of the networking process. Indeed, this is what configures a collaboration network beyond a research group. At the same time, they extend the scope of the search results and expand the range of new questions. No doubt, with the growth of the network also grows the spectrum of publications and journals in which they are conveyed. In conclusion, diversity brings an exchange of knowledge.

Coauthorship network RBBIO

Fig. 4.2 Coauthorship network RBBIO: 2004-2013. (Source: The authors, 2016)

The formats of networks show the strengths of collaboration, namely the network of some researchers reveals an intense research group activity by years. Naturally, the networks formed around productive leaders recognized in the academic community are the most common structure. In the RBBIO case study, the knowledge produced in collaboration overtakes the regional boundaries of the university and even the country’s borders. The RBBIO research topic is attractive because of its local and global scope, and academic and social impact. Research resources are captured by the leading researcher at the various funding agencies, although the center-periphery relationship in S&T can create obstacles.

Differences and similarities are observed in the formation of groups and research networks. As we consider the examples of researchers from different areas of knowledge in the same country and the same areas of knowledge in different countries, we point out some perceived patterns. We summarize the following differences and similarities that characterize research groups and networks. Related to research group, some aspects emerged:

  • • Research groups have emerged under the influence of public policies on S&T.
  • • Research groups are part of the culture of knowledge areas associated with the hard sciences.
  • • Research groups can be inherited.
  • • Research groups can be formed by institutional invitation to an excellence researcher recognized among peers.
  • • Research groups can exist without generating networks of national and/or international cooperation.
  • • Research groups may exist and harbor only incipient coauthorship networks.
  • • Research groups, and by extension networks, can subdivide by branching, differentiation, and splitting.

Related to the networks, some aspects are relevant:

  • • Networks are constituted for knowledge production, practical and applied to the needs of the economy, society, and enterprises, to attend research notices of the same country or continent.
  • • Networks originate and add members to meet international projects, notices of international partnerships, agreements, and international cooperation.
  • • Research and collaboration networks emerge and expand within research groups.
  • • Networks arise from personal relationships and affinities between researchers.
  • • Networks arise from personal relationships and epistemological affinities between mentors and mentees, and advisers/advisee.
  • • Networks are encouraged to grow and differentiate from lines or thematic research subjects.
  • • Networks are formed from interconnections, multi- and transdisciplinary.
  • • Networks continue the collaboration after completion of doctoral and postdocs.
  • • Networks can be formed by the sum of joint work between researchers and teachers of elementary school systems and do not always aim to pure or applied research, but to the extent of practical knowledge.

From studies that we discussed, some of their results are partially described in this chapter, we emphasize that the research groups as well as the research networks require strategies of stimulation, maintenance, consolidation, and planned development. The most common knowledge management strategies identified were events, seminars, projects, and studies in national and international partnership. Research groups and collaboration networks gain greater cohesion by stimulus such as the distribution of work with symbolic or concrete, material reward to their members. Networks and research groups have subtle differences. Research networks form and reform according to every new need and last until the moment when it is satisfied. The word network is composed by two concepts net and work; this means that the work is embedded in intensive agencies. Research networks differ from research groups due to their greater flexibility and less bureaucracy. The research groups tend to be an arranged hierarchy centered on research training routines. There may be research groups that do not originate collaborative networks. In sum, research networks and research groups are different structures but they are complementary.

Summarizing, international connections make a difference in relation to the scope of the research done. International connections are important both for research done in a relatively geographic isolated location (like the presented case study of RBBIO), as for the research conducted in prestigious and known universities, visible in the international rankings, as referred by the Brazilian researcher from Production Engineering and by Portuguese researchers. We understand that establishing new networks or maintaining the old ones means to manage human resources. It means to manage and evaluate personal relationships flowing with knowledge through nets, spaces that often become virtual space. To manage social and psychological relationships involves complex tasks for a researcher, especially in the scientific field, a place of vanities, discursively built, merits, and transactional prestige.

In the discourses of the researchers, we found various postures. We did not always find praise for collaborative networks in knowledge production. Some researchers leaders publish more than 15 works per year and claim to be difficult and laborious to review each article together with a colleague, more so the theses of their mentees and even more so each written manifestation of their research networks. For some, it is difficult to publish internationally as writing in English is not an embodied practice. There are other negative aspects pointed out, such as the conviction that the networks formed by the leader are aimed at his/her favor at the expense of other members. There is a criticism of the resulting networks of personal favors that also exist. The collaboration, in the case, would be done around the clientelistic expansion of the number of quotes. In a way, an unethical game was appointed. There is rejection against partners that break the deadlines, are slow, delay a report, and are unethical.

It seems clear that networks are structured around people with their virtues, concerns, conveniences, interests, and, sometime's, difficulties. There are people beyond the complex mechanism of approach and rejection. There are losses and gains in the competitive space in which we establish the interactive flows. However, it seems that researchers see more gains than losses in the expansion of connectivity, in the encouraging quotes and impacts on their own production of knowledge. On the positive side, the researchers and their collaborative networks facilitate the release of academic available science put at the service of innovative applications. Collaboration expands the range of solutions to concrete problems ofmaterial reality, social and economic, and contributes to the progress of science itself, to innovation and wealth generation.

It seems to be consensual that networks result from diversity, from internationalization that integrates people, knowledge, skills, and methodologies around a shared cognition. These spaces, structured around the flow of knowledge, can accelerate solutions for heuristic problems. Major problems challenge scientists for many years and require the contribution of different scientific fields. Networks as productive collective agencies would be able to reduce the bureaucracy in finding scientific solutions and answers to the problems of society and our planet Earth. They lead articulated demands of the known world and have the power of collaboration to generate more inquiries into the unknown universe.


  • 1. CNPq is the Brazilian National Council of Technological and Scientific Development, subordinated to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Brazil, and FCT is the Science and Technology Foundation, Portugal.
  • 2. The CNPq Lattes Platform harbors the curricula of Brazilian and foreigner researchers. This database in 2014 registered 119,402 curricula. The Lattes Platform also hosts data on leader researchers, students, and technicians of any research group in Brazil. A strict evaluation process defines a researcher CNPq level of distinction based on productivity and leading positions in the area.
  • 3. Degree of intermediation marks the power of the nodes to connect in search of resources.
  • 4. Dr. Carolina Joana da Silva.
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