Understanding conditions for the emergence of virtual organizations in long-tail sciences

With this project, Carl Lagoze examined the collaborative tendencies of the independent small research groups that characterize long-tail science.

Start date: 9/1/2012
End date: 8/31/2013

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Small, independent research groups are much more common than large-scale collaborations in many scientific fields. These small groups are often self-sufficient and pursue self-selected research programs. Long-tail science refers to the model in which these independent collectives of researchers contribute results to the body of knowledge in their field. Virtual organizations have the potential to allow these scientists to better address research problems through large-scale data sharing, analysis and multi-disciplinary collaboration. 

This study examined the diversity of long-tail scientific communities, their cultures and practices, and the complex interaction of technological and social issues that could inhibit a uniform acceptance of virtual organization technology. There is considerable empirical evidence of the diverse nature of research cultures across scientific disciplines and the resulting conflicting responses by different scientific communities to new communication and collaboration tools that promote various forms of virtual organizations.

To better understand the potential for long-tail sciences to benefit from specific types of virtual organizations, the study looked at the role and intensity of inter-group collaborations in particular fields and how these fields compared in data intensity and information transferability. The project then examined how long-tail researchers use virtual organizations to support their scientific communities, and sought evidence for new forms of research and collaboration.


Understanding Conditions for the Emergence of Virtual Organizations in Long-Tail Sciences, National Science Foundation: $152,929


The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…"