AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXII, No. 1, Spring 2000


Decade-Long AIP Study of Collaborations Completed
by Joan Warnow-Blewett

Please click on the photo to view an enlarged version.

The AIP Study of Multi-Institutional Collaborations that was launched in 1989 comes to completion this spring. Initiated by the AIP Center because of the increasing importance of large-scale research projects and the many unknowns and complexities of documenting them, the AIP Study was the first systematic Photo of AIP Working Group membersexamination of the organizational structures and functions of multi-institutional collaborations. Readers of this Newsletter may recall that we covered research projects involving three or more institutions in physics and related fields: high-energy physics (Phase I), space science and geophysics (Phase II), and ground-based astronomy, heavy-ion and nuclear physics, materials science, and medical physics (Phase III). Throughout the study our field work consisted—on the one hand—of structured interviews with scientists who participated in collaborations selected to serve as our case studies, and—on the other hand—of site visits to numerous archival and records management programs. The interviews provided data on organizational patterns, records creation and use, and the likely locations of valuable documentation. The archival site visits to academia, federal science agencies, the National Archives, and elsewhere provided data on existing records policies and practices and the likelihood of collaborations being documented under current conditions. Reports were issued at the end of each phase of the study and are available from the AIP Center (with summary reports also available on our Web site at /history/pubslst.htm.)

Since our last account of the AIP Study (see the Spring 1999 issue of this Newsletter), the final reports on Phase III work have been fully revised and are now available. The reports include historical and archival findings, sociological analysis, records appraisal guidelines, and project recommendations directed to academic archives, the National Archives, federal science agencies and other institutions.

Other major efforts of the past year have been aimed at the development of final reports covering the decade-long study. We drafted comparative historical and archival findings and appraisal guidelines, developed a typology of collaborations, analyzed our surveys of practices in academic and corporate archives, held meetings, and revised project recommendations. Draft reports were critiqued through a mailing to archivists. The final report, The AIP Study of Multi-Institutional Collaborations, will be ready for distribution in late spring. The publication will consist of a summary report (highlights of findings and project recommendations) and a main report in which readers will find a rich harvest of the decade-long study.

The last assignments of project staff are to write articles for newsletters and journals that will bring the study and its findings to the attention of archivists, historians, and—perhaps, most importantly—to physicists and a broader audience of scientists. A book summarizing and discussing key conclusions is in preparation by project consultants Ivan Chompalov, Joel Genuth, and Wesley Shrum, supported by a new grant to AIP from the National Science Foundation.

Meanwhile, the AIP Center will begin to implement the knowledge gained through its study of multi-institutional collaborations. The formal effort will be on two levels. We will work with scientists (discipline by discipline) to identify a selection of significant collaborations and then try to locate the valuable records and save them at appropriate repositories. Equally important will be efforts to improve the documentation of collaborations more generally by finding opportunities to support academic archival programs and upgrade records programs at federal science agencies.

The long-term AIP Study of Multi-Institutional Collaborations has been funded by the American Institute of Physics, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Historical Public Records Commission, and the Department of Energy. We are most grateful for their steadfast and generous support. I served as project director, Spencer R. Weart as associate project director, and Joel Genuth as project historian. For further information, contact the Center or e-mail Joan Warnow-Blewett,

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AIP History CenterCenter for History of Physics
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