Analysis of 1.25 million scientific articles finds international collaboration can increase impact

Published: October 8 2014

Category:Sciences, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- International collaboration tends to boost the profile of the science for all researchers involved, but collaborating with certain countries provides more of a scientific impact than others.

For college students aiming someday to become scientists, that means the sooner you start thinking globally, the better.

Emilio Bruna , a University of Florida professor of tropical ecology and Latin American studies, teamed up with University of Chicago professor Stefano Allesina and two of his students to study 1.25 million research articles published from 1996 to 2012 in fields ranging from chemistry to psychology. The research will be published online Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

Bruna said the team wanted to study the scientific impact of various countries and how collaborations between diverse groups influenced the likelihood of a research article getting published in leading journals or cited by other scientists.

“Collaborating with scientists in other countries is really hard work,” Bruna said. “From speaking different languages, to dealing with different cultures, to doing science in different places, to just the bureaucratic stuff like getting research permits and finding the money to work internationally.

“There is personal satisfaction, but beyond that, is all this hard work worth it?”

The team found that, in most cases, collaboration raises the profile of the science, and the more collaborators, the better, in terms of journal publication and number of citations.

For example, Bruna said, collaborations between mathematicians in France and the U.S. tend to end up in higher-profile journals and be cited more than research by scholars from those countries working independently. Similarly, Brazilian and U.S. ecologists who collaborate find their work is cited more frequently than that of scientists from either country working independently.

Bruna said there are a few reasons for the positive effect. Each scientist has his or her own social and professional network, so as collaborators increase, so does the number of people who will see and cite the work. While previous researchers had noted this benefit collaboration, however, Bruna and colleagues found that the effect was even more pronounced as the geographic diversity of collaborators increased.

Another reason might be access to resources that enhance the quality of research – for instance, many funding agencies and universities have funds available for international collaborations, which would allow researchers to gain access to unique field sites or advanced instruments, And, it stands to reason, he said, that work that involves multiple countries also might be broader in scope and hence have broader implications.

“The take-home message for national governments, funding agencies, and universities is that international collaboration can translate into greater scientific visibility, quality and impact,” Bruna said.

“We should be reminding our students to think beyond our borders in terms of questions they want to address as scientists. We’re not just better scientists for working internationally,” Bruna said, “we’re better people for it.”


Writer: Cindy Spence,, 352-846-2573

Source: Emilio Bruna,

Category:Sciences, Research