Thesis defence Inga Ulnicane


On June 21st Inga Ulnicane (STePS, MB) defends her Thesis “Influence of institute governance on international research collaboration: Towards a typological theory”.

While for centuries scientific activities have spanned national borders, research has been organised largely nationally and locally with diverse missions, reward systems, hierarchies and funding structures. Diversity of research governance facilitating development of a wide variety of competences and approaches can ensure opportunities for highly creative international collaborations but it can also increase costs of collaboration due to the need to reconcile diverse institutional and organisational arrangements. Both international collaboration and research governance are undergoing important transformations. While international research collaboration is increasing, governance of research funding, careers and evaluation are considerably changing. It has been suggested that, due to changes in research governance, freedom to choose collaborators and topics and to undertake long-term and risky research has been restrained.

In this context, this Thesis undertakes multiple longitudinal in-depth case studies, putting institute governance and international collaborations under the microscope to obtain high resolution evidence of institute governance and other factors influencing the emergence, evolution and results of international collaborations at “grass-root” level. Multiple data sources and research methods are used to build a typological theory from seven case studies. Publication, citation, organisational and CV data together with 61 interviews with researchers in 31 leading nano S&T institutes in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the United Kingdom are analysed. The findings reveal that institute governance characteristics, such as autonomy, rich communicative and collaborative environment, open organisational culture, support for international mobility and recruitment and availability of diverse funding sources, facilitate productive and creative international collaborations, supporting initiatives of researchers and self-organisation processes of the scientific community.

The Thesis develops a typological theory of the influence of institute governance on international research collaboration in nano S&T in Europe, specifying how three ideal types of institute governance - ‘exploratory’, ‘industrially relevant’ and ‘catch-all’ - relate to specific modes of international research collaboration. Institutes with an ‘exploratory’ type of governance are more likely to engage in an in-depth creative formal and informal international collaboration, accumulating diverse reinforcing results that facilitate continuation of collaboration. Institutes with an ‘industrially relevant’ type of governance tend to limit their collaboration to large externally funded projects, which are designed according to the needs of companies. Institutes with a ‘catch-all’ type of governance increasingly collaborate within formal projects with opportunities for creative informal collaboration decreasing. Each type of institute governance facilitates the choice of a certain type of formal project: small scale thematically open, large scale industrially relevant or applied and thematically pre-defined projects. Moreover, each ideal type prioritises different kind of competition, either for priority in discovery and publishing or for industrial contracts and publically funded projects. While collaboration among institutes with diverse types of governance can be beneficial due to complementarities, it can also increase the costs of collaboration as their institutional differences have to be reconciled.

The international Thesis committee includes leading research and innovation policy scholars: Jakob Edler (University of Manchester), Thomas Heinze (Bergische Universität Wuppertal), Philippe Laredo (Université Paris-Est), Rob Hoppe and Nelly Oudshoorn (MB/UT). Thesis supervisor is Stefan Kuhlmann. Thesis originates from the international research group “Governance of Research”, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.