Cooperation of Estonian Research Institutions (Comparative Study of Co-Authorship and Co-Partnership)

by Ülle Must

Archimedes Foundation,Head of Innovation Centre
Kompanii 2, 51007 Tartu, Estonia
Fax: +3727 300330

Science is a collective, creative effort that can not develop in isolation. The prerequisites for an ample field of scientific research are openness, an opportunity to consult, reliance on the research results of predecessors, engagement in creative discussion with counterparts, wherever the said counterpart resides.

The paper will focus on the analyses of formed networks of Estonian research institutions, based on co-occurrence analysis data of publications, co-authorship and co-partnership in international co-operation programs.


The research made use of the SCI 1991-1999 data of articles published with Estonian co-authorship, the data of participation in Framework programmes 4 and 5 of Estonian research institutions, as well as the self-analysis data submitted in the years 1997-2000 by Estonian higher educational establishments for the implementation of Higher Education Quality Assessment.


1. Period 1991-1993

  • The period of re-structuring of Estonian science. SCI reflects 394 articles whose authors are Estonian researchers. As far as international research contacts are concerned (co-authorship), the co-operation predominates with various research institutions in Russia (17.3%), succeeded by Finland (17%), Germany (16%) and Sweden (12.2%).
  • The circle of international co-operation is relatively narrow - four countries cover 62.5% of total capacity.
2. Period 1994-1999.
  • SCI expresses 1982 articles whose authors are Estonian researchers. First come researchers as co-authors from Finland (17.3%), Sweden (17%), Germany (12.2%) and the USA (9.6%). The capacity of joint articles with Russian scientists has dropped to 6.8%.
  • As far as co-authorship of publications is concerned the expansion of co-operation contacts is noticeable and the proportion of the s. -c. leading countries has somewhat declined (four "leading countries" cover 56.1% of the total number of articles).
  • In the year 1994 Estonian scientists had a possibility of participating in the EU 4 FP (INCO), from 1999 on they take part in the 5FP as fully qualified members. Framework programmes have opened up possibilities for substantially expansive co-operation. In the 4FP Estonians took part in executing 489 projects, during the first year of the current 5FP 178 project applications were handed in (by the end of June 42 of them were successful). At the head of the leading group of the multinational co-partnership there are Germany (11.2%), Finland (9.3%), Sweden (7.6%) and Great Britain (8.4%). In comparison with the data of publi-shing, considerably predominated by the leading group of four countries across years, the circle of co-operation partners is more widely dispersed. The leading group of four countries makes up only 33.7% of the whole number of co-operation partners.

3. Although experts have recommended closer co-operation among the Baltic scientists, that exhortation has seemingly gone unheeded. The three Baltic states have established their preferred co-operation partners. Comparing the geography of the authors who co-operated in producing research articles within the periods of 1991-93 on the one hand and 1994-99 on the other, a continuous decrease in the proportion of the authors from the former SU republics as well as from East and Central Europe is noticeable.


International contacts of Estonian science synchronise with the developments in other countries (the globalisation of science), however; they have their peculiarities, related to the political background, in the first place. Within a relatively short time (10 years from the restoration of independence) a rapid re-orientation from the sphere of SU science-system to that of European science has taken place. Based on Estonian experience we can assert less inertia in minor states. The participation in the international RTD co-operation is vital for minor states also from the aspect of procuring additional resources (finances, expertise) for internationalisation and developmental operations.

The shifts in geography of co-authors assert Price's argument that the extent of co-authorship is directly linked to the size of financial support available to research, and the collaboration reflects more economic than intellectual dependence. The SCI data-base first reflects the situation in these branches of science, which are closely connected to technology and inno-vation processes. The Estonian scientists who worked successfully thanks to orders from the former SU defence industry seem to have found it easier to re-structure themselves and adjust their work to the standards of their Western partners.

Restoration of international research contacts first with Finland, Sweden and Germany is, besides their geographical vicinity, related to either affinity of languages (Estonian and Finnish are close cognate languages) or traditions of culture (in 1632 King of Sweden founded a university in Tartu; up to the beginning of the 20th c. Estonia belonged to the German sphere of culture).

In near future we can prognosticate, based on the results of self-analysis of research institutions, those research contacts with Russia are going to gradually increase (earlier co-operation relationships, absence of language barrier).

The degree of openness of the sciences in a particular country can be correlated with the number of co-authors contributing to the work. Out of 2,945 articles written by Estonian authors 1,574 have been produced as a result of international co-operation - and it makes 53.4%.

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