Determinants of International Scientific Collaboration: An Evidence-based Systematic Review

Document Type : Original Article


1 Ph.D. candidate in Economic Sociology and Development, Department of Social Sciences, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran.

2 Associate Professor, Department of Social Sciences, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran

3 Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran.


Objective: Two aims of the present study are: First, identifying the most widely used indicators that have been used so far to measure the factors affecting scientific collaboration between countries; and the second, determining the most important indicators in terms of influencing international scientific collaboration.
Methodology: Due to the accumulation of experimental research in the field of determining factors of international scientific collaboration, which include a multitude of predictive variables and are sometimes accompanied by contradictory results, an evidence-based systematic review was used. According to the PRISMA protocol and without considering the time limit, 20 studies were selected to review the findings. Studies were selected that were based on the level of macro analysis and statistical model. To achieve the first aim, the frequency of use of indicators in various studies was investigated, and to achieve the second aim, indicators with a dominant effect were identified based on the vote counting technique. Due to the heterogeneity of the selected studies (the difference in the test statistic used and the way predictor and control variables are measured), this technique was used.
Findings: The most widely used indicators used by researchers are the geographical distance between the capitals of countries (in the physical dimension), common membership in intergovernmental organizations (in the political dimension), economic development, and economic size (in the economic dimension), social similarity (in the social dimension), the common official language (in the cultural dimension), and the number of articles (in the scientific and technological dimension). The results indicate that there is a lot of overlap between widely used indicators and indicators with a dominant effect. All widely used indicators also have a dominant effect. However, some indicators are classified in the group of indicators with a dominant effect despite having a lower degree of application. These indicators include the volume of trade relations (in the economic dimension), colonial relations (in the cultural dimension), specialization distance, and international student exchange (in the scientific and technological dimension). These indicators, based on the consensus of most of the evidence about their type of effect (positive or negative), are among the most important indicators affecting scientific collaboration between countries.
Conclusion: According to the reviewed studies, the identified factors have an undeniable effect on scientific collaboration between countries. As a result, they should not be neglected in the design of national research systems. In addition, this research by enumerating the existing research gaps in this field states that achieving a more comprehensive understanding of the factors requires interdisciplinary studies by researchers in the fields of Knowledge and Information Science, Sociology, and Political Science. Finally, two suggestions can be made. First, the establishment of research areas based on the conclusion of scientific and technological agreements in neighboring areas to solve common problems of member countries; and second, the wider intervention of international organizations in the global flows of student exchange through the creation of international competitions to allocate awards, scholarships, and research grants to countries that have ideas to solve major and common global problems.


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