An exploration of collaborative scientific production at MIT through spatial organization and institutional affiliation

Authors: Claudel M, Massaro E, Santi P, Murray F, Ratti C

Abstract: Academic research is increasingly cross-disciplinary and collaborative, between and within institutions. In this context, what is the role and relevance of an individual’s spatial position on a campus? We examine the collaboration patterns of faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, through their academic output (papers and patents), and their organizational structures (institutional affiliation and spatial configuration) over a 10-year time span. An initial comparison of output types reveals: 1. diverging trends in the composition of collaborative teams over time (size, faculty versus non-faculty, etc.); and 2. substantively different patterns of cross-building and cross-disciplinary collaboration. We then construct a multi-layered network of authors, and find two significant features of collaboration on campus: 1. a network topology and community structure that reveals spatial versus institutional collaboration bias; and 2. a persistent relationship between proximity and collaboration, well fit with an exponential decay model. This relationship is consistent for both papers and patents, and present also in exclusively cross-disciplinary work. These insights contribute an architectural dimension to the field of scientometrics, and take a first step toward empirical space-planning policy that supports collaboration within institutions.

Citation: Claudel M, Massaro E, Santi P, Murray F, Ratti C (2017) An exploration of collaborative scientific production at MIT through spatial organization and institutional affiliation. PLoS ONE 12(6): e0179334. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0179334

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