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University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Citations study shows greater impact when researchers collaborate with industry

By David Schwartz
Published: December 18th, 2018

A new analysis of research citations shows that the average number of citations a university research paper receives is progressively boosted by having collaborators, and the biggest positive impact occurs then the collaboration involved co-authors from industry and other non-academic partners.

The research, by University of Maryland professor of computer science Ben Shneiderman and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrates how the number of citations – often seen as a proxy for impact – rises for papers with more than one author, co-authors from multiple research institutions, international co-authors, and — most powerfully — coauthors from business and/or government/NGOs.

Shneiderman makes the case for what he calls a “Twin-Win Model” for conducting research — a model that encourages the formation of teams that simultaneously pursue the goals of generating breakthrough published research and solutions to real human problems. He found that for UMD researchers, university-corporate collaborations produced research papers that averaged 20.1 citations, almost seven times the number of citations of published research by single authors. The findings were based on data, through 2016, from the Elsevier SCOPUS database, which holds the metadata on 70 million published papers.

Shneiderman says these results were not unique to UMD, with the same pattern of substantially higher impact when researchers co-authored papers with off-campus colleagues.

The co-authors from the industry side also benefitted from their collaborations, according to Shneiderman’s paper. SCOPUS data on published research from 12 large corporations during 2012-2016 showed that papers by corporate researchers who had academic co-authors had almost twice the average citation count (11.7) as papers without academic co-authors (6.3).

“There is growing evidence that when academics work with business or government partners, they address authentic problems that challenge the research team to produce more potent solutions. Such partnerships often have access to more resources (money, staff, data, etc.), enabling them to take on more substantive problems,” Shneiderman said.

He noted that some researchers continue to have reservations about working with industry, and he acknowledges the challenges involved in those collaborations for both sides of the collaboration. But increasingly, he adds, researchers and universities, including the University of Maryland, have recognized the power and benefits of industry research partnerships.


Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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