Debunking the Myth: Bigger Research Teams Don’t Necessarily Produce Better Research

Medical Researchers

A study analyzing 1.4 million academic papers reveals that larger research teams do not necessarily produce higher-quality research. The research also found that in extreme cases, overly large and diverse teams may actually decrease research impact.

After analyzing data from 1.4 million academic papers, a new study from the University of Surrey found no correlation between the size of a research team and the quality of the research produced.

Professor Sorin Krammer, lead author of the study and Professor of Strategy and International Business at the University of Surrey, said:

“Despite the prevalence of large teams in research, there is still a lack of a good understanding of how their size and diversity affects their performance.”

“Our findings will help academics, and perhaps industry, to organize teams more effectively according to their performance goals.”

The Surrey study used data between the years 1990 and 2020 on more than 1.4 million papers and 18 million citation counts across 22 subfields in management.

Researchers captured performance in two distinct areas: impact, in the form of citations gathered by a research paper, and prestige, in the form of ranking of the journal where it is published. Furthermore, they looked at diversity in terms of knowledge expertise, and international representation.

The study discovered that neither the size, nor the characteristics of teams uniformly affected research performance, and highlighted that academics should be cautious in thinking that larger, more technically diverse teams are better.

Professor Krammer continued:  “We also found a lower success rate for single-authored papers. Often, it takes single authors a huge amount of time, resources, expertise, and effort to develop such research papers that inherently have much lower success rates and impact, therefore, the requirement by many schools to have such single-authored top publications as a prerequisite for tenure, promotion or career advancement seems unnecessary and unfair.”

While both larger and more diverse teams are independently beneficial to research performance, in extreme scenarios (i.e., very large and very diverse teams), researchers found that this combination reduces the impact of research, noting fewer citations.

Reference: “An Ivory Tower of Babel? The Impact of Size and Diversity of Teams on Research Performance in Business Schools” by Sorin M. S. Krammer and Peter Dahlin, 11 April 2023, Academy of Management – Learning and Education.
DOI: 10.5465/amle.2021.0063

1 Comment on "Debunking the Myth: Bigger Research Teams Don’t Necessarily Produce Better Research"

  1. Clyde Spencer | July 13, 2023 at 8:34 am | Reply

    “We also found a lower success rate for single-authored papers.”
    Poor Einstein couldn’t find anyone to sign on with him.

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