Cooperation across Organizational Boundaries: Experimental Evidence from a Major Sustainability Science Project
Engaged research emphasizes researcher–stakeholder collaborations as means of improving the relevance of research outcomes and the chances for science-based decision-making. Sustainability science, as a form of engaged research, depends on the collaborative abilities and cooperative tendencies of researchers. We use an economic experiment to measure cooperation between university faculty, local citizens, and faculty engaged in a large sustainability science project to test a set of hypotheses: (1) faculty on the sustainability project will cooperate more with local residents than non-affiliated faculty, (2) sustainability faculty will have the highest level of internal cooperation of any group, and (3) that cooperation may vary due to academic training and culture in different departments amongst sustainability faculty. Our results demonstrate that affiliation with the sustainability project is not associated with differences in cooperation with local citizens or with in-group peers, but that disciplinary differences amongst sustainability faculty do correlate with cooperative tendencies within our sample. We also find that non-affiliated faculty cooperated less with each other than with faculty affiliated with the sustainability project. We conclude that economic experiments can be useful in discovering patterns of prosociality within institutional settings, and list challenges for further applications.
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