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«Imperfect Partnership: Effects of Collaboratories on Scientists from Developing Countries by Airong Luo A dissertation submitted in partial ...»

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Imperfect Partnership: Effects of Collaboratories on Scientists from Developing

Countries

by

Airong Luo

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

(Information)

in The University of Michigan

Doctoral Committee:

Professor Judith S. Olson, Chair

Professor Michael D. Cohen

Associate Professor Fiona Lee

Assistant Professor Steven Jackson

____Copyright airong Luo____

All rights reserved

DEDICATION For Eleanor and Evan Park ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would have been unable to finish my dissertation without tremendous support and encouragement from many individuals.

I would like, first and foremost, to thank my adviser, Professor Judy Olson, for her excellent guidance and sustained support throughout my time in graduate school and during my completion of this thesis. It is difficult for me to list all that I have learned from her. Her insightful comments helped sharpen my mind and improve my writing. Her advice on how to conduct rigorous research and how to balance work and family life will benefit me my whole life. She kept me focused throughout the process, providing the support I needed.

My special thanks must go to Professor Michael Cohen. Michael’s insights and well thought questions always turned my wild thoughts into clearer research questions and motivated me to achieve more than I had anticipated. Michael’s intellectual achievements, humility and enthusiasm for teaching set good examples for my future career life. Meetings with Michael also have the benefits of enjoying cups of warm tea in the cold Michigan winter, creating precious memories of my life in Ann Arbor.

I was very grateful that Professor Steven Jackson agreed to become involved in this project. Steve pointed me to so many interesting and helpful readings that I had never thought would be related to my research. His expertise in qualitative research and sociology of science studies has broadened my view and helped improve the quality of my work.

iii I must thank Professor Fiona Lee for her assistance in this thesis. Her valuable advice has strengthened my study. In particular, her critical challenge in the early phases of this project helped me narrow down my research questions, enabling me to set up a feasible and attainable goal.

In addition to my committee members, many others offered valuable assistance in my research. Professor Gary Olson was always a source of mentoring and advice. I also want to thank Dr. Nathan Bos who gave me valuable suggestions in the early phases of the project. I am particularly indebted to Dr. Ann Zimmerman who was never too busy for a chat to provide thoughtful comments and advice on the construction of a theoretical framework and techniques of conducting interviews. Professor Ching Kuan Lee for the Department of Sociology offered me much valuable guidance on how to design and conduct a qualitative study, as well as on career development. Professor Soo Young Rieh and Professor Yan Chen offered me enormous encouragement and emotional support. My fellow doctoral students in the Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop for Qualitative Research in the Social Sciences, Brian Hilligoss Jeannie Thrall, Pilar Horner, Carla Pfeffer, Katherine Luke, and Brian Girard made helpful comments on my very early draft. I also wish to thank Dr. Homer Neal, Dr. Zhengguo Zhao, Dr. Bing Zhou, Dr.

Steven Goldfarb and Mr. Jeremy Herr from the Physics Department for their help in arranging my research trip to CERN, Europe.

This research would not have been possible without the cooperation and participation of the individuals I interviewed. I want to extend my thanks to all of them for sharing their experiences. Their dedication to science impressed me deeply and confirmed the value of my research.

–  –  –

Sue Schuon and Ms. Xiaowen Zhou were sources of constant support. Ms. Sharon Mahoney, Ms. Christine Eccleston and Ms. Ann Verhey-Henke offered me assistance whenever needed.

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and get to know my fellow graduate students at the School of Information. Jihyun Kim deserves special mention for her willingness and patience to listen and provide support, but I also want to thank Yan Qu, Xiaolong Zhang, Jun Zhang, Yong-mi Kim, Derek Hansen, Tapan Khopkar, Nikhil Sharma, John Lin, Matthew Bietz, Christopher Lee, Cliff Lampe, Jennifer Lee, and Erik Johnston.

I also want to thank my friends, Ms. Wonju Kwan in Korea, Ms. Barbara Fichtenberg and Dr. Norman Fichtenberg, Dr. Margaret Baker, Ms. Naomi Schult and Dr.

Mark Schult. They helped to keep me strong and keep my faith.

My deepest appreciation goes to my family. My husband, Yongseok Park, a busy graduate student himself, offered me unconditional support and whatever help I needed. I want to thank my daughter, Eleanor Park, for growing into a wonderful three year old in spite of her mother spending much time away from her, and for understanding that Mom was sometimes busy with her dissertation work and could only read one book to her instead of five as she wanted. I want to thank my son, Evan Park, who stayed every minute with me while I was writing my dissertation. And last but not least, I thank my parents, Jiyu Cui, Mingjie Luo, and my sister, Aihua Luo for their steadfast encouragement and support.





–  –  –

DEDICATION

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

LIST OF TABLES

LIST OF FIGURES

LIST OF APPENDICES

ABSTRACT

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS AND SCIENTIFIC PRODUCTIVITY......... 7 WHAT DO LABORATORIES AFFORD SCIENTISTS

COLLABORATION AND SCIENTIFIC PRODUCTIVITY

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, REMOTE COLLABORATION,

AND PRODUCTIVITY

COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE

SCIENTISTS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND RESEARCH QUESTION................. 47 SUMMARY

CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODS

ASSUMPTIONS AND RATIONALE FOR A QUALITATIVE STUDY......... 51 DATA COLLECTION METHOD

SETTING

PARTICIPANTS IN THE STUDY

DATA ANALYSIS

vi METHODS OF VERIFICATIONS

SUMMARY

CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATIONS

ACCESSING RESOURCES

COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE AND NETWORKS OF PRACTICE

IN COLLABORATORIES

SUMMARY

CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSIONS

OVERVIEW OF THE MAJOR FINDINGS

THEORETICAL IMPLICATIONS

POLICY IMPLICATIONS

DESIGN IMPLICATIONS

LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY

FUTURE RESEARCH

APPENDICES

BIBILIOGRAPHY

–  –  –

Table 1 Collaboratiories Studied

Table 2 CoPs and NoPs in the collaboratories studied

Table 3 A section of micro array data (adapted from Collaboratory D)

Table 4 Explanation of an experiment listed in Table 3—MAEXP_XXX_XXX.......... 102 Table 5 A meeting schedule for Septemter 7, 2007 for Collaboratory (adapted from a meeting schedule at Insitute X)

Table 6 Information technologies in collaboratories

viii LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1 Collaboratory

Figure 2 Conceptual Framework of the Study

Figure 3 Scientist chatting during a coffee break in a building at Institute X..................83 Figure 4 Scientists having lunch in a cafeteria at Institute X

Figure 5 Results from an Elispot test

Figure 6 Picture of a chamber

Figure 8 Scientists in Collaboratory F having a video conference

Figure 9 Faculty and students of University M having a video conference

–  –  –

Appendix A Interview Protocol for Scientists Participating in collaboratories............ 139 Appendix B Interview Protocol for Administrators

Appendix C Codebook for Scientists Interviews

APPendix D Code Books for Administrators

Appendix E Recruiting Letter

Appendix F Imperfect Partnership: Effects of collaboratories on scientists from developing countries Informed Consent for Interviews

–  –  –

Academic research and various reports from research institutions and governmental agencies have consistently indicated a gap in the scientific output of developing and developed countries. Researchers and policy makers are trying hard to reduce the disparity. In recent years, researchers have hypothesized that a new form of scientific collaboration--the “collaboratory”--holds promises to greatly benefit scientists from developing countries. It is argued that distributed collaborations enabled by various information technologies can allow scientists from developing countries to reach remotely located experts, instruments, and databases that their local institutions cannot afford. However, there have been no empirical studies to prove or disprove this.

Prior studies of the impact of information technology on scientific work tend to focus on the correlation between technology use and scientific productivity as measured by publications and citations. This approach ignores the mediating factors affecting the relationship between information technology use and scientific productivity. As a result, we are not clear about the dynamics through which information technology exerts its influence. Neither do we understand how information technology enhances productivity, if it indeed does so. Thus, the current study focuses on some mediating factors that purportedly lead to productivity, such as scientists’ access to resources and participation in communities of practice.

Adopting a qualitative approach (interviews complemented by field observation), I explore how scientists from developing countries benefit from reaching remotely located resources and participating in communities of practice in the virtual organization of a collaboratory. I also demonstrate how the relation of resource dependency, the nature xi of collaborative work, geographical distance and cultural differences influence scientists’ participation in collaborataries. These factors affect the ability of scientists from developing countries to access resources of collaboratories, build relationships with other collaboratory members and learn knowledge and practice from their collaborators in the developed world. In addition, I show that collaboratories facilitate technology transfer from scientists from developed countries to those from developing countries. However, scientists from developing countries demonstrate an urgent need to build general competence in performing research. This kind of competence can only be achieved through long-term exposure to the practices of advanced laboratories from the developed world. Collaboratories failed to meet the need because of their project-oriented nature and their funding mechanism.

–  –  –

In 2003, Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, called attention to the clear inequalities in science between developing and developed countries.

Mr. Annan asserted that “This unbalanced distribution of scientific activity generates serious problems not only for the scientific community in the developing countries, but for development itself” (2003). Annan's sentiments have also been validated by a recent report on world science by academic research and various reports from research organizations and governmental agencies, which present overwhelming evidence for the disparity in scientific output between the developing and already developed countries.

Annan's sentiments have also been validated by various reports from research institutions and governmental agencies. For example, in 2001, developed countries accounted for

87.3 percent of scientific and technical publications registered by the Science Citation Index (SCI). North America and the European Union clearly dominated the number of scientific publications produced annually, with 36.2% and 40.3%, respectively Despite the disparity of scientific output between developing and developed countries, there are many compelling reasons to increase scientific contributions from the developing world (Holmgren & Schnitzer, 2004): Science, as a discipline, would benefit more from the contributions of many diverse groups than being dominated by groups from only two geographical areas. Many research problems would be solved more easily by including the efforts and insights of scientists from developing countries. For example, research in climate change and biodiversity research urgently requires inputs from scientists in the developing world. It is also critical for developing countries to promote their research capacity and apply scientific knowledge to solve problems of great social concern, such as food security, diseases like AIDS, pollution and etc.

Many researchers and policy makers seek to reduce this disparity. In recent years, the Internet and related information technology have become increasingly important in scientific work. People have argued that information technology has brought about new opportunities to narrow the productivity gap between scientists of developing and developed countries.

In particular, over the last decade, a new form of scientific organization, the “collaboratory,” has been more and more widely adopted. A collaboratory is “an organizational entity that spans distance, supports rich and recurring human interaction oriented to a common research area, and provides access to data sources, artifacts and tools required to accomplish research” (G. M. Olson, Bos, & Zimmerman, 2008). An example of a collaboratory is the Function Biomedical Informatics Research Network (Function BIRN), where 186 participants from 11institutions participate in work to study brain dysfunctions related to the progression and treatment of schizophrenia (J. S. Olson, 2008).



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