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Global Vision: International Collaboration


Mark A. Griffin and Boris Kabanoff
Queensland University of Technology

A global vision is important, if not essential, in all scientific fields. How well does the field of I-O psychology embrace a global view? In particular, what is the state of international research collaboration in our field? A column in TIP dedicated to the topic is certainly a positive indicator. However, from our own experience as I-O psychologists working in Australia, we know that participating in a global research community can be difficult. We raise some issues of international participation and collaboration in this issue. In coming issues we will present a series of profiles that highlight successful, international collaborations, both among researchers and practitioners of I-O psychology. The researchers and practitioners in these profiles will explore the benefits, costs and successful strategies for international collaboration and suggest ways that the field can enhance the degree to which I-O psychology crosses international boundaries. 

International Collaboration in JAP

What message does JAP, the flagship journal of I-O psychology, provide about international collaboration? In the 2 years 2000 and 2001 there were 146 papers published in the journal. Of first authors, 129 were based in the U.S. So, researchers from outside the U.S. led less than 12% of papers. This percentage may be revealing but doesnt really tell us much about international collaboration. To further explore collaboration, we counted the number of papers where there was a coauthor from a different country than the first author. Interestingly, only 9 papers involved one or more coauthors from different countries. That is, only 6% of papers in these 2 years involved international collaboration, at least by this definition. Of course there may be other forms of collaborationyou can travel to another country, gather data there (perhaps with some cooperation from a native researcher or institution) but then write the paper by yourself. Although this might also be considered a type of international collaboration, we tend to think that shared authorship is the indicator of a deeper, more equal, and more important form of collaboration.

We do not have rigorous benchmarks with which to make comparisons. However, we make two general observations based on this brief bout of data collection. First, there seems to be relatively little international collaborative research taking place based on the evidence of outputs in the premier research outlet. Given the number of researchers actively attending conferences and sharing research around the world, it was somewhat surprising to find so little evidence of active collaboration. Second, it seems that the amount of international collaboration may be lower than in some related fields. For example, there appears to be a larger proportion of internationally authored papers in the premier management journal based in the U.S., based admittedly on a brief scan of the latter (perhaps well provide some comparative data in a future issue).

We conclude that levels of international collaboration could be increased. There are many potential reasons to explain why collaboration rates might be low and to justify our belief that higher levels of international collaboration would benefit the field of I-O psychology. We present some of our reasons below and look forward to the contributions of various colleagues in coming issues on this topic. 

What Are the Barriers to International
Collaboration in I-O Psychology?

Some barriers to collaboration are easy to identify. Consider how difficult it can be to form research partnerships with people in the same building working in a similar topic area. Multiple work demands quickly detract from the time commitment required for effective collaboration. Competition is also a reality (admit it!), while mentoring younger researchers also takes time. Next, consider the barriers to working with others in the same organization but in a somewhat different field. Typically, the effort required for collaboration faces further institutional obstacles. Now consider, all these barriers together with the added problem of different countries and concomitant differences in times, cultures, and expectations, among many other factors.

The simple fact of large distances can explain some of these barriers. No doubt, technological advances help to reduce these barriers. Yet we know these advances are insufficient on their own to recreate the reality of personal collaboration.

If some fields are more successful than others in developing collaborations, then there must be factors other than distance at play. Perhaps one of the key differences we see is that the professional nature of I-O psychology creates local differences and conditions. I-O psychologists have specific training requirements and government regulation in most countries of which we are aware. These differences and local requirements may make collaboration particularly difficult at a practical level and may have an indirect impact on research-oriented collaborations.

There are many other potential barriers. However rather than provide a pessimistic list of negatives, we next consider some of the drivers of successful collaboration and some way these factors might be enhanced. 

Enhancing International Collaboration in I-O Psychology

We consider two aspects of international collaboration that have significant personal meaning for us. The first is the role of graduate school in developing research partnerships. Graduate school is an experience that has a permanent impact on most of us. My own experience (Mark speaking here) as a graduate student at Penn State not only shaped my research skills but was also the opportunity to begin some long-term research partnerships. These partnerships strongly influence the way I value international collaboration and the positive outcomes it can provide to all partners in such work. However, completing a graduate degree is a rather heavy-handed strategy for enhancing collaboration among individuals from different countries. It is disappointing that there appear to be so few opportunities for graduate students in I-O psychology to share experiences across cultures and countries in a systematic way. Greater use of internships, credits for international exchange, and research placements with advisors at international institutions would be both beneficial and attractive to students. Perhaps the different training requirements across countries, as noted above, create some artificial barriers to this kind of exchange. Nevertheless, the benefits of international exchange for developing long-term international exchange must outweigh these difficulties. We know that some researchers and practitioners actively encourage these exchanges and welcome news of how these activities operate.

In a sense, I can attest to the point Mark is making (Boris speaking here) being someone who completed his postgraduate studies in Australia. Most of my international collaborations have been the result of special events or special circumstances. My most recent and ongoing collaboration with Joe Daly from Appalachian State arose from my directly advertising for a research partner in the newsletter of a professional bodyI wanted to compare espoused values of Australian and U.S. firms by analysing their annual reports, and Joe was brave and adventurous enough to put his hand up to be the U.S. connection. We actually met face to face for the first time some 12 months after we had begun our collaboration, as I recallluckily we liked each other! Recently Joe was able (partly funded by an NSF Grant ) to spend the better part of a year here at QUT to continue our work on organisational values, so who says advertising doesnt pay! Reflecting further on this, I have to say that sabbaticals (though I have had few of them internationally) have not really worked for me in terms of producing international collaborationsdespite being wonderful experiences in their own right and various attempts during them to make things happen. Overall, I think Mark is certainly rightdeveloping research partnerships at graduate school is a very important path to international collaboration. Somewhat paradoxically, psychologys relative maturity and strength as a discipline in quite a few countries may actually inhibit the numbers that do their graduate work in another country, unlike newer fields, like management. 

Coming Issues

Our observations in this article are based largely on our own experiences. Others experience may be different and illuminating. We would be particularly happy to hear from TIP readers about issues of international collaboration and to incorporate as many viewpoints as possible. E-mail us at b.kabanoff@qut.edu.au or m.griffin@qut.edu.au. In coming issues we will provide profiles of successful international collaboration. These articles will provide a forum for participants in these collaborations to discuss the barriers to collaboration and to suggest mechanisms for enhancing collaboration.


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