Research Collaboration

How researchers are like #Eurovision voters

Here’s what we discovered when comparing collaboration patterns of researchers with voting habits in the popular song contest

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Collaboration beyond neighboring countries is an important aspect of research. For example, inclusion of developing countries in the global research network is crucial for solving issues that are highly relevant to developing countries, such as poverty and climate change.

Even though research is less and less limited by country borders, however, researchers in countries close to each other still tend to collaborate more with each other. This is not surprising. Research collaboration depends heavily on researchers’ own networks, the availability of funding, and the costs associated with collaboration. It is often easier to reach people conducting similar research in the neighboring countries with lower costs involved.

Figure 1 shows the collaboration between European countries. We can clearly see that Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland) collaborate intensively with each other. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia form a collaboration triangle. The Balkan countries form a strong collaboration cluster while they connect only very loosely with other European countries.

<strong>Figure 1: Collaboration among European countries</strong> (Source: "Comparative Benchmarking of European and US Research Collaboration and Researcher Mobility," 2013 report conducted by Science Europe and Elsevier, based on Scopus data)

But what if researchers could collaborate with whomever they want? The research world is getting closer and closer to that ideal with increasing digitalization and cheap ways of communicating. Will researchers then choose the top researchers or institutions as collaborating partners no matter their location?

Perhaps not. It is human nature to favor people with similar language, culture and history. The neighboring countries are more likely to share these similarities.

How will they vote this year?

The 2016 Eurovision Grand Finale is on Sunday, May 14, at 9 pm CEST.

Voters in the Eurovision song contest, a popular event in Europe where singers representing their countries strive to win by collecting votes from participating countries, are free to choose their favourite songs. But they still tend to favor the songs from their neighboring countries.

When the Scandinavian countries were all in the finals of the Eurovision contest in 2014, we clearly see that they favoured each other’s songs (Figure 2). Slovenia is again close to Montenegro as in the research collaboration network. Russia is close to Belarus. In 2015 the Scandinavian cluster was not formed because Finland and Denmark both did not make to the final. Since they could not get votes from other countries, they move to the outskirts of the chart (Figure 3). However, we still see Greece, Albania and Cyprus cluster together on the top-right corner. Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia are together in a row. Estonia and Latvia are close to each other. Further analysis shows that even the judges of the contest show this same pattern as the TV voters.

<strong>Figure 2: Voting pattern in Eurovision 2014. </strong>Countries that give higher points to each other are plotted close to each other. The color of the circles (from red to yellow to blue) denotes the final ranking in the contest (last to first). Countries in grey are non-finalists. (Source: Chart by Elsevier Analytical Services with data from Eurovision)

<strong>Figure 3: Voting pattern in Eurovision 2015. </strong> Countries that give higher points to each other are plotted close to each other. The color of the circles (from red to yellow to blue) denotes the final ranking in the contest (last to first). Countries in grey are non-finalists. (Source: Chart by Elsevier Analytical Services with data from Eurovision)

For collaboration beyond neighboring countries to occur, there will need to be extra incentives for researchers to overcome language, cultural and historical dissimilarities. The extra incentives can be a top potential collaborator, extra funding or top facilities – or even having a great song in Eurovision.


Elsevier Connect Contributors

Lei Pan, PhDDr. Lei Pan is Content and Analytics Product Manager at Elsevier. She specializes in assessment reports for government,  academic institutions and funding bodies and in combing publication and citation data with macroeconomic data to link research performance to policy and economic development. She focuses her work on Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Lei holds a PhD in Economics from VU Amsterdam and a Master of Economics  from Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Tinbergen Institute.

Steven ScheeroorenSteven Scheerooren is Content Analytics Support Manager for Elsevier’s Analytical Services team. Having graduated from the University of Leiden as Japanologist (BA), Steven joined Analytical Services in 2013 to work on staff evaluation projects for Japanese universities. In his current position, he conducts comparative research performance analyses for academic and government institutions.

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