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.