What Motivates Faculty International Collaboration? An Evaluation of Faculty Perspectives

Sunday, February 14, 2016
Danna Moore, Washington State University-Social & Economic Science Research Center, Pullman, WA
International research collaboration has been a core endeavor, historically, for some researchers at U.S. institutions even though amongst their administrators and institutions, there has been mixed support and lack of recognition for this type of collaborative research. Recent studies have found intensifying interest and priority placed on international collaboration especially amongst research intensive institutions. With increasing recognition of co-authorship and citations as indexes of researcher and institutional performance, there is pronounced interest in determining if international research collaboration is a contributing factor and whether it can be further stimulated, supported and recognized for credit in promotion and tenure decisions.   Expectations and perceptions influence faculty motivation, efficacy and performance. This study delves into this area of faculty determinants in establishing international collaborations. Using a mixed mode survey (mail, web, telephone), we examined perspectives, characteristics, and performance across 764 research faculty in 129 academic disciplines (aggregated to 12 main research areas) at Washington State University, a U.S. Carnegie designated RU/VH public research university. Characteristics and perspectives were systematically analyzed to evaluate their content and implications for understanding what motivates and sustains faculty engagement in global interactions. Our results showed that a large majority (87%) of those faculty involved in international research collaboration have benefited from these collaboration in the last five years and these benefits include a number of types of outcomes. Researchers described that benefits accrued from international research collaboration were broader than self-benefit and most important to solving global complex problems. The features influential on faculty effort and innovation were examined and measured by self-reported research grant awards, patents and citation publication activity. Universities have a key role in furthering international collaborations to help researchers overcome potential areas of risk and barriers to success with long term partnerships. The findings of this study suggest that higher education institutions need to examine their support of faculty engaged in international research collaboration and consider strategies and messaging that align individual, departmental, college and university priorities for high impact and measureable input, output and outcome assessment.