Types and levels of collaboration in interdisciplinary research in the sciences

Jian Qin, F. W. Lancaster, Bryce Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


It is common today for scientists to conduct research in collaboration with their colleagues from different institutions and disciplines. This study collected a sample of 846 scientific research papers published in 1992 and tested three hypotheses on the relationship between research collaboration and interdisciplinarity. Collaboration was measured by the number of authors, number of institutional affiliations, number of affiliation disciplines, and type of collaboration. Interdisciplinarity was measured by the number of disciplines represented in the journals cited. The results showed significant differences in degrees of interdisciplinarity among different levels of collaboration and among different disciplines. Some disciplines were shown to be highly collaborative, while others were not. This analysis led to the conclusion that collaboration contributed significantly to the degree of interdisciplinarity in some disciplines and not in others. In addition to an analysis of publications, this investigation used a survey that asked authors about their forms of collaboration, channels of communication, and use of information. The survey provided some qualitative explanation for the bibliometric findings. Findings are discussed from the perspective of scientist-scientist interaction, scientist-information interaction, and information-information interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-916
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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