Does distance hinder the collaboration between Australian universities in the humanities, arts and social sciences?
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Australia is a vast country with an average distance of 1911 km between its eight state capital cities. The quantitative impact of this distance on collaboration practices between Australian universities and between different types of Australian universities has not been examined previously and hence our knowledge about the spatial distribution effects, if any, on collaboration practices and opportunities is very limited. The aim of the study reported here was therefore to analyse the effect of distance on the collaboration activities of humanities, arts and social science scholars in Australia, using co-authorship as a proxy for collaboration. In order to do this, gravity models were developed to determine the distance effects on external collaboration between universities in relation to geographic region and institutional alliance of 25 Australian universities. Although distance was found to have a weak impact on external collaboration, the strength of the research publishing record within a university (internal collaboration) was found to be an important factor in determining external collaboration activity levels. This finding would suggest that increasing internal collaboration within universities could be an effective strategy to encourage external collaboration between universities. This strategy becomes even more effective for universities that are further away from each other. Establishing a hierarchical structure of different types of universities within a region can optimise the location advantage in the region to encourage knowledge exchange within that region. The stronger network could also attract more collaboration between networks.
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