Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

INSCONS: International Scientific Consortia

Addressing Global Challenges through International Scientific Consortia

2020 - 2025
Simcha Jong Kon Chin

Geographically dispersed science projects

International scientific consortia are becoming ever more critical spills around which we organise efforts to address global challenges in areas such as health, the environment, and clean energy. Big science projects used to be few and far between, and mostly concentrated in physics and astronomy. In these disciplines increasing costs of experimental equipment necessitated scientists to concentrate work at facilities like Fermilab and CERN. The consortia that we focus on in the INSCONS project are often similar to these traditional big science projects in terms of their high costs. However, their organisational set-up is different because work within these consortia is geographically dispersed across research groups from multiple countries. For example, work carried out by the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, which sequenced the human genome at a cost of €5 billion+ was dispersed across universities and research centres located in France, Germany, the US, UK, Japan and China.

Understanding the organisational dynamics

As international scientific consortia are proliferating, our understanding of the distinctive organisational dynamics governing these consortia has lagged behind. These consortia are complex, distinctive organisations with work being carried out at sites around the world, and involving international stakeholder groups from across the realms of science, policy, and industry. Moreover, international scientific consortia often must navigate funding uncertainties associated with the shifting national political currents across many contributing countries. As a result, delays, political infighting, and budget overruns are commonplace. In addition, because of the significant resources involved, processes of contestation by scientific groups from within and outside scientific consortia tend to be particularly fierce.

Novel theory and frameworks

INSCONS will develop novel organisational theory and frameworks that will support both the advancement of scholarship and practice of international scientific consortia. To illuminate the distinctive challenges and dynamics that characterise the work of international scientific consortia, we work together as an interdisciplinary team and employ a mix of quantitative and qualitative research methods. We do this in the context of three case studies of international consortia and the scholarly fields these consortia are embedded in.

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