APSA Working Group on Collaborative Research

The APSA working group on collaboration, formed in February 2006, was motivated by what appeared to be a significant expansion in collaborative work in political science, accompanied by an increase in the number of junior scholars engaged in collaborative projects. Our charge was to (1) Identify the important ethical and procedural questions raised by this expansion (2) Gather information on the practices within political science and other disciplines which address these questions (3) Propose best practice(s) or principles on the basis of which to evaluate best practice(s) where possible and (4) Create a forum for continued discussion as new projects evolve. Part 1 documents some basic facts about the trends in collaborative work in political science, using data on published articles between 1956 and 2005 from the Social Science Citation Index and papers presented at the American Political Science Association between 2002 and 2006 from a dataset made available by APSA. It shows that there has indeed been an increasing, albeit uneven, trend towards collaboration in all four major subfields – American Politics, International Relations, Comparative Politics and Political Theory. There appears also to be an expansion in the scale and in the range of methods employed in collaborative work. As we had surmised, this expansion has gone hand in hand with an increase in the number of untenured faculty and graduate students engaged in collaborative work. And most importantly, this increase has come about largely through collaborative relationships that are asymmetric by rank, between students and faculty and between untenured and tenured faculty. Part 2 identifies five important questions of principle and procedure raised by the asymmetric nature of collaborative work in political science: (1) How should the contribution of assistants be acknowledged in collaborative work? (2) What are the criteria by which an assistant’s contribution to a project should be acknowledged as co-authorship? (3) How should we decide on the order of authorship in co-authored work? (4) How can we integrate collaborative work with graduate training in a way that encourages independent thinking? (5) What should the procedures be for a discussion of any of these questions and for the resolution of disputes? In addressing these questions, we start from the position that we should as a discipline encourage collaborative work. The more we collaborate, the more we find ways of leveraging the work of others, and the better our work will be. But organizing asymmetric collaborations in a way that is effective and ethical requires a discussion about the stakes attached to each of these questions, the practices that we currently follow in response, and the best practices that we might follow. In surveying and suggesting practices, our purpose is to create a context for this discussion – and not to lay down rules. Political science, unlike other disciplines with a history of collaboration, represents a gaggle of different approaches, styles, methodologies, and data collection strategies – and collaborative work in political science is similarly diverse. No one practice is likely to work in all situations. But an informed discussion about best practices can provide a perspective that helps scholars make better individual decisions. In order to initiate such a discussion, we make three recommendations: (1) The APSA should seek feedback on this report as widely as possible, by circulating it among colleagues and students (2) A revised version, based on the feedback we receive, should be posted on the APSA website and published in PS and (3) APSA should make the data on which this report is based publicly available for others to explore collaborative patterns and practices as research questions rather than simply as matters of professional concern.