Excellent research is increasingly conducted within a complex web of interacting researchers, coming from different scientific and institutional backgrounds. The SFB Programme of the Austrian Science Fund aims to strengthen Austria as a location for high-level scientific research by supporting the establishment of sustainable, extremely productive and internationally visible research units. A theory-based evaluation was conducted following a mixed-methods approach to empirically examine the effects of the intervention on research excellence, patterns of collaboration and interdisciplinarity. The performed bibliometric analysis clearly shows that SFB succeeded in supporting exceptional research as evidenced by the outstanding publication and citation record of the funded projects. Moreover, the study reaffirms the SFBs' highly successful publication strategy as publications generally appear in high impact journals (with respect to their field) and receive more citations than expected for these journals. However, excellence in scientific outcomes is not paralleled by achievements in terms of interdisciplinarity and international collaboration. While the qualitative analysis emphasises the programme's perceived unique orientation towards promoting interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity is typically a result of very closely related (sub-) disciplines working in a sub-project. The evaluation resulted in a differentiated picture of the factors contributing to the objective of funding outstanding research.
Dinges, M., Heller-Schuh, B., Hawlik, R., Scherngell, T., Wang, A., Thijs, B., & Glänzel, W. (2021). Excellence, interdisciplinarity and collaboration in research networks. Evidence from the evaluation of the special research programme (SFB) of the Austrian science fund (FWF). In 18th International Conference on Scientometrics and Informetrics, ISSI 2021 (pp. 329–337). International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics.