The role of negotiations in coordination of actions in small research groups
Sociology State University - Higher school of economics Moscow, Russia
The question of the way research activity and research groups are organized is central to policymakers, who are looking for the most efficient means of managing scientific institutions, especially in the rugged times of economic crisis. Paradoxically, this issue is rarely addressed in micro-level empirical studies of research groups. What are the communicative strategies researchers employ to organize their scientific activities? How do they perform coordination of the actions in research projects? How do they negotiate certain solutions for everyday problems? The present study is focused on the phenomena of negotiations in the activity of several types of research groups. I tried to provide comparative perspective examining (1) educational research groups, (2) scientific research groups and (3) research groups in small innovative firms. The empirical part of the study took place in Tomsk - traditionally one the strongest educational and scientific centers in Russia, famous by its high level of research culture.
Theoretical background of our study is negotiated order theory developed by Anselm Strauss. Negotiated order theory calls into question the more static structural-functional and rational-bureaucratic explanations of organizations; it presents an interactional model involving a processual and emergent analysis of coordination and division of labor. Qualitative methodology of situational analysis (based on works by A. Clarke) was used to highlight the key categories retaining the researchers' communicative activity. The study revealed a set of intriguing results, which indicate different ways of negotiation of tasks, deadlines, allocation of responsibilities, reporting about results. These ways of negotiation depend on the type of research (educational/fundamental/applied study). Moreover, nothing except the negotiated context of work organization itself compels scientists to complete their research: project-based organization of researchers' work implying active engagement of all the participants in the process of coordination and management. Results obtained can be used by managers of scientific organizations to optimize research activities, besides the study sheds some light on the nature of contemporary research process.