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The impact of air transport availability on research collaboration: A case study of four universities

Authors: Katy Börner, Adam Płoszaj, Xiaoran Yan
Publication type: journal articles
Full citation: Ploszaj A, Yan X, Börner K (2020). The impact of air transport availability on research collaboration: A case study of four universities. PLoS ONE 15(9): e0238360, pp.25.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238360
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This paper analyzes the impact of air transport connectivity and accessibility on scientific collaboration. Numerous studies demonstrated that the likelihood of collaboration declines with increase in distance between potential collaborators. These works commonly use simple measures of physical distance rather than actual flight capacity and frequency. Our study addresses this limitation by focusing on the relationship between flight availability and the number of scientific co-publications. Furthermore, we distinguish two components of flight availability: (1) direct and indirect air connections between airports; and (2) distance to the nearest airport from cities and towns where authors of scientific articles have their professional affiliations. Based on Zero-inflated Negative Binomial Regression, we provide evidence that greater flight availability is associated with more frequent scientific collaboration. More flight connections (connectivity) and proximity of airport (accessibility) increase the expected number of coauthored scientific papers. Moreover, direct flights and flights with one transfer are more valuable for intensifying scientific cooperation than travels involving more connecting flights. Further, analysis of four organizational sub-datasets—Arizona State University, Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and University of Michigan—shows that the relationship between airline transport availability and scientific collaboration is not uniform, but is associated with the research profile of an institution and the characteristics of the airport that serves this institution.