Authors : Austin J. Parish, Kevin W. Boyack, John P. A. Ioannidis
We aimed to assess which factors correlate with collaborative behavior and whether such behavior associates with scientific impact (citations and becoming a principal investigator). We used the R index which is defined for each author as log(Np)/log(I1), where I1 is the number of co-authors who appear in at least I1 papers written by that author and Np are his/her total papers.
Higher R means lower collaborative behavior, i.e. not working much with others, or not collaborating repeatedly with the same co-authors. Across 249,054 researchers who had published ≥30 papers in 2000–2015 but had not published anything before 2000, R varied across scientific fields. Lower values of R (more collaboration) were seen in physics, medicine, infectious disease and brain sciences and higher values of R were seen for social science, computer science and engineering.
Among the 9,314 most productive researchers already reaching Np ≥ 30 and I1 ≥ 4 by the end of 2006, R mostly remained stable for most fields from 2006 to 2015 with small increases seen in physics, chemistry, and medicine.
Both US-based authorship and male gender were associated with higher values of R (lower collaboration), although the effect was small. Lower values of R (more collaboration) were associated with higher citation impact (h-index), and the effect was stronger in certain fields (physics, medicine, engineering, health sciences) than in others (brain sciences, computer science, infectious disease, chemistry).
Finally, for a subset of 400 U.S. researchers in medicine, infectious disease and brain sciences, higher R (lower collaboration) was associated with a higher chance of being a principal investigator by 2016. Our analysis maps the patterns and evolution of collaborative behavior across scientific disciplines.