Towards institutional analysis of sustainability science : A quantitative examination of the patterns of research collaboration

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-125
Journal / PublicationSustainability Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


This paper examines quantitatively the patterns of collaboration over geographical boundaries in the emerging field of sustainability science by empirically analyzing the bibliometric data of scientific articles. The results indicate that an increasing number of countries are engaged in research on sustainability, with the proportion of articles published through international collaboration rising as well. The number of countries engaged in international collaboration on sustainability research has been increasing, and the diversity of countries engaged in research collaboration beyond national borders is also increasing. The geographical patterns of collaboration on sustainability show that research collaboration tends to be conducted between countries which are geographically located closely, suggesting that communication and information exchange might be limited within the regional clusters. The focused fields of research activities on sustainability are significantly different between countries, as each country has its focused fields of research related to sustainability. The specialization of research activities is also observed in international collaboration. While these patterns of international collaboration within regional clusters focusing on specific fields could be effective in promoting the creation, transmission, and sharing of knowledge on sustainability utilizing the already existing regional networks, they could pose a serious obstacle to collecting, exchanging, and integrating diverse types of knowledge, especially when it is necessary to deal with problems involving large-scale complex interactions with long-term implications, such as climate change. It would be of critical importance to establish inter-regional linkages by devising appropriate institutional arrangements for global research collaboration on sustainability science. © 2009 Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science, United Nations University, and Springer.

Research Area(s)

  • Bibliometrics, Institutional analysis, Research collaboration, Sustainability science