Self-Organisation and Steering in International Research Collaborations

  • Ulnicane I
Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.

This article is free to access.


As international collaboration within the scientific community is increasing, for scientific and political reasons, it is necessary to deepen our understanding of tension between self-organising and steering. To do so, this contribution contrasts two in-depth case studies of international collaboration in nanosciences. Tracing the emergence and evolution of collaboration helps identify relevant dimensions of self-organisation and steering by analysing scientists’ freedom to act and the influence of grant agencies on collaborative topics, types of research, partners, and modes of interaction. While existing literature indicates that self-organisation leads to productive collaborations and steering can be problematic and trigger the emergence of ‘artificial collaborations’, insights from the case studies here reveal that self-organisation and steering are intertwined, and both can have positive and problematic effects. Self-organisation allows freedom to choose collaborators and topics but can provide limited opportunities for learning from diverse collaborators and for expansion due to lack of resources. Steering can not only provide resources for larger and more diverse collaborations but can also entail compromises on topics and collaborators as well as considerable administrative burdens. Rather than being in tension with each other, self-organisation and steering in successful collaborations can reinforce each other, allowing collaborations to grow




Ulnicane, I. (2021). Self-Organisation and Steering in International Research Collaborations (pp. 107–125).

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free