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How complex international partnerships shape domestic research clusters: Difference-in-difference network formation and research re-orientation in the MIT Portugal Program

Mackenzie D. Hird and Sebastian M. Pfotenhauer

Research Policy, 2017, vol. 46, issue 3, 557-572

Abstract: This paper proposes a novel mixed-method approach to study the impact of complex international capacity-building partnerships as an emerging policy tool at the crossroads of four major research policy trends − university-centrism, collaboration, internationalization, and growing structural complexity. We combine bibliometric network analysis with difference-in-difference program evaluation, statistical matching techniques, and system architecture analysis to evaluate complex research partnerships more adequately ‘in their own terms.’ We apply our method to one national “flagship” policy initiative − the MIT Portugal Program − where we compare program participants to a carefully assembled peer group of non-participant Portuguese researchers to assess the impact of MIT-Portugal with regard to idiosyncratic, more structurally oriented, and arguably less conventional program goals. As part of this methodological approach, we propose difference-in-differences Content Overlay Maps (“maps of science”) as a means to evaluate how program participants change their research focus over time relative to their national peers. These findings are complemented by an analysis of the collaborative network of participants and their institutions, as well as more traditional forms of impact assessment. Our findings indicate that complex international capacity-building partnerships can have a significant impact on the ‘hosting’ country in terms of cluster formation and research re-orientation. Moreover, they suggest that our mixed-method approach provides a valuable tool for evaluating complex capacity-building initiatives in ways that do justice to their one-of-a-kind architectures and goals. Future research should aim to study more closely the relationship between different program architectures and program impacts, and combine our largely quantitative approach with ongoing qualitative and interpretive policy analysis.

Keywords: Research policy; Innovation policy; Social networks; Collaboration; Program evaluation; International partnerships; Maps of science; Difference in difference; System architecture (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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