Doing it Together: Is There a Correlation Between Collaboration and Productivity Amongst LIS Academic Researchers in South Africa?

Doing it Together: Is There a Correlation Between Collaboration and Productivity Amongst LIS Academic Researchers in South Africa?

Jan Resenga Maluleka (University of South Africa, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0043-9.ch005


Collaborative relationships between researchers in different organizations are encouraged by many stakeholders who are of the view that collaboration in research increases productivity. This study employed bibliometric research techniques to investigate whether there is a correlation between collaboration and productivity amongst Library and Information Science (LIS) academics in South Africa. The results suggest that there is a strong correlation between collaboration and productivity among LIS academics in South Africa.
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Introduction And Background

Michael Jordan (1963-), a well-known American basketball legend, once said, “Talent wins games, but team work and intelligence wins championships”. Simply suggesting that the most talented person is likely to lose against combined efforts of the entire team. Having said that, Sonnenwald & Maglaughlin (2005), view collaboration as “a human behaviour that facilitates the sharing of meaning and completion of tasks with respect to a mutually shared super-ordinate goal and which takes place in a particular social or work setting.” Katz and Martin (1997) define research collaboration as the working together of researchers to achieve the common goal of producing new scientific knowledge. Collaboration brings together, experiences, skills, knowledge and the know-how of different researchers into one project.

On the other hand, research productivity is explained by bibliometricians as the number of publications the researcher produced over time (Abramo, & D’Angelo, 2014). One of the reasons scholars collaborate in research is the potential the collaboration has in enhancing the publication productivity of participating scholars (Sooryamoorthy, 2014). Katz and Martin (1997) are also in agreement that high productivity in terms of research output is indeed correlated with high levels of research. Lee and Bozeman (2005) go further to say that collaborative activities usually help participating researchers to focus on the goals and deadlines of the project they are involved in, which in turn encourages every member to pull his or her own weight so that the project is not delayed because of them. Katz and Martin (1997) however caution that collaboration between high-productivity scientists tends to increase personal productivity, while collaboration with low-productivity scientists generally decreases productivity. Simply put, the review of literature suggests that collaboration between highly productive authors tend to increase performance and productivity, while collaboration between productive authors and less productive authors, such as mentees, post-doctoral students, developing researchers or young researchers, may help to improve productivity among the latter while negatively affecting the productivity of the former (Maluleka, 2014). For this study, collaboration will be measured in terms of co-authored works. A scientific document is co-authored if it has more than one author.

Various studies were conducted on the subject of collaboration and productivity and quite a number of these studies suggest that collaboration tends to have a positive impact on productivity. However, Hu, Chen, and Liu (2014) caution that the impact of collaboration relies on factors such as disciplines, collaboration patterns, collaborators’ characters, and the researchers’ career stages. Lee and Bozeman (2005) also warn that despite good reasons to expect that scientific collaboration will enhance productivity, the relationship between the two is not obvious. The researchers argue that collaboration may undermine productivity in the sense that transaction costs are usually an unavoidable consequence of working with others and waiting for others to do their part of the research may take time and energy. Sooryamoorthy (2014) also highlights that collaboration can negatively affect productivity in the sense that as one grows older and have achieved almost everything, the motivation to push for more dwindles and that can affect a younger scholar whose success may be dependent on targets and the completion of projects timeous completion of projects.

Despite various studies (Abramo, D’Angelo, and Murgia, 2017; Hu, Chen, and Liu, 2014; Abramo, D’Angelo, and Di Costa, 2009; Lee and Bozeman, 2005) highlighting that the influence of collaboration on productivity relies among other factors on the characteristics of a discipline, to the best of the researchers knowledge, there is very little research that was done to test whether collaboration has an impact on productivity in LIS in South Africa. This paper, therefore, seeks to find out if there is a correlation between collaboration and scientific productivity amongst LIS academics in South Africa. This will be done by using a simple count of outputs as a measure of production and co-authorship as a measure for collaboration. The specific objectives of the study were to:

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