Magazine article Times Higher Education

Do Too Many Researchers Spoil the Outcome?

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Do Too Many Researchers Spoil the Outcome?

Article excerpt

Researchers in business and management are much more communicative than those in pure mathematics or foreign languages.

This is the implication of an academic paper that identifies the ideal upper size limit for research groups.

The paper, "Critical masses for academic research groups and consequences for higher education research policy and management", published in Higher Education Management and Policy, postulates that the quality of research groups increases proportionally to their size.

However, quality ceases to rise significantly beyond what the authors - Ralph Kenna, deputy director of Coventry University's Applied Mathematics Research Centre, and Bertrand Berche, head of Universite Nancy's department of physics - call "upper critical mass".

They suggest that this is because there is a limit to the number of colleagues with whom individual researchers can meaningfully communicate. "In a department of 80, it is hardly likely that you could meaningfully interact with 79 other people," Dr Kenna told Times Higher Education.

But the upper critical mass varies widely across disciplines, from 48 in business and management to just six in foreign languages and four in pure mathematics. Dr Kenna declined to speculate on the reasons for this difference in disciplines with which he was not familiar. …

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