22 SES 10 A, International Academic Collaboration In The Era Of Networks
It has become a widespread appreciation that most objectives related to research and education cannot be achieved by any single researcher, university, or scientific discipline alone, and challenges are too big or complex for knowledge organisations to solve on their own (Gibbons et al. 1994). Institutional boundaries apparently become more porous, as a result of the general growth of networks in society, and of collaborative professional arrangements and institutional consortia receiving policy support and social legitimacy. Academic networks have become significant players amongst more traditional institutional structures.
Research-funders and policymakers have championed approaches of network formations and collaborative ventures to today’s social, environmental and political challenges and posited collaboration as a scientific good (Duque et al., 2005). Collaboration is seen as akin to innovation and a carrier of impact (Katz & Martin, 1997). It would enable to pool resources, to transfer knowledge and technology, to stimulate efficiency, to support quality and to foster greater internationalisation. Education policy in Europe has also actively promoted cooperation and collaboration. Dedicated programmes have been devised under the assumption that co-operation will have far-reaching implications at the system level (Papatsiba, 2006) and will nurture a distinctive European dimension, identity and cohesion (Papatsiba, 2003).
HE institutions eagerly seek participation in networks and commitment in collaborations. Network relationships enhance visibility or reputation, which may influence the organisation’s ability to gain advantage through additional resources, complementary capabilities and information (Burt & Minor, 1983; Burris, 2004). As to scientific developments, increasing specialisation across disciplines and fields, the desire to tackle complex research problems, the rising costs of technological apparatus and finally the development of information and communication technologies have led to the intensification of collaborative pursuits (Cummings & Kiesler, 2005). In most scientific fields that require access to abundant resources, for which there is great competition, collaboration has become the norm (Wray, 2002) as scientists involved in collaborative research are reported to be very successful in accessing these resources, which may in turn enable them to realise the epistemic goals of science more effectively than other scientists.
The aim of this symposium is to undertake an empirical, conceptual and theoretical examination of networks and collaboration in the academy. Prime consideration will be given to the figure of academic, pushed and pulled by these developments. Although forms of social organisation based on network models are governed by a lower degree of determinism, and bear an enabling potential for exchange and learning, it is worth considering possible changes in the social fabric of academic collectives, the social glue that connects its members, and finally the nature of goals that drive actors within. Have networks reinforced instrumentalism that impinges upon traditional academic ideals, values and loyalties? How have the network principles been accommodated within collectives that have forged a certain distinctiveness by operating with notions of a ‘gift’ economy and gratuity? Finally, given the centrality of knowledge in the reason d’être of academic communities, in what ways has knowledge generation been reshuffled within network and collaborative settings?
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