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Regular version of the site

Efficiency factors of research team activity

2009

The project was implemented within the framework of the HSE Program for Basic Research The project is aimed at developing a new approach to understanding efficiency of R&D performance taking into account the socio-structural aspects of a research team, on the one hand, and  management efficiency of this structure on the other. Research teams were considered as relatively autonomous collective agents of scientific production, operating in a complex institutional network.

The survey was based on a target sample including 13 research teams that were representing independent research units within the structure the Russian Academy of Sciences or major universities.

Authors have used a variance model of a team social structure. The latter was interpreted as a probability density of social differences between individual members. The efficient state of the social structure of a research team (the management target) was then taken as corresponding to the extremum of the action functional. This theoretical model was tested in a sample survey.

The main results of the survey are:

  • A theoretical model of the research team social structure;
  • A model explaining probability distribution of research team management efficiency;
  • Empirical distribution of  management efficiency probability of the surveyed research teams.

The survey results draw attention to the need for further systematic observation of the internal degree of freedom in a research team, its spontaneity, and capabilities for self-organization. It requires at least reconsidering of the key purposes of research team social management, and developing new social mechanisms of feedback. Social structure of a research team therefore becomes one of the indispensible internal factors that has to be scrutinized and taken into account in for developing a management strategy.

The research demonstrated that factors structuring the space of the research leaders do not correspond to factors determining the space of their teams. Even though the contribution of team leaders to the distribution of active properties of subordinate teams is great as they have the largest value of all measured sociological indicators, this factor is not determinative. The space of research teams is significantly more complex. The main factor for team leaders is academic recognition reflected for instance in the citation index while for the space structuring work of research teams these factors include the volume of accumulated scientific and administrative capital.

One of the most important results of the research is testing the hypothesis concerning the efficiency of the informal organization of a research team. For these purposes one of the surveyed teams was taken as an example of an efficient social structure management in a formal payroll team and an informal team. The results of the experiment showed that the hypothesis about greater efficiency of the informal organization was wrong. An informal team is inferior in quality according to several criteria.

It was empirically determined that the probability distribution of a value base logarithm measuring the efficiency of managing the social structure of sampled research teams is subject to regular laws. This lognormal distributed random value is obtained as a result of repeated multiplication of a large number of small unrelated efficient causes, and this distribution is invariant, i.e. independent from the distribution laws for these values. In other words, we may argue that the efficiency of managing social structure of a research team is affected by many random factors, and these impacts are independent, relatively small and have a multiplicative property: each factor exerts some impact on efficiency, and the results of this impact depend both on its value and efficiency that has already been reached by the moment when the factor comes into force.

A characteristic trait of management efficiency distribution is large releases indicating a structure-forming role of high-efficiency as well as low-efficiency research teams in research production. Thus a large number of research teams not only with high-efficiency, but also low-efficiency social structure management to a certain degree is not accidental, but rather is a condition for the existence of research production.

Lognormal efficiency distribution of managing the social structure of research teams was not only obtained empirically, but was deduced theoretically from the stationary action principle. It turned out that it emerges as a probability-adjusted effect of the equilibrium of two efficient causes: autonomous management action and external for social forces in research teams. Thus, lognormal efficiency distribution of managing social structure of research teams may be treated as an empirically tested theoretical statement.

Empirical analysis of the constructed conceptual model of efficient management of research team social structure provided a means to formulate general management principles that may be used in the development of research policy.