Disproving the Fallacy: Quality of Research Not Determined by Team Size

by Liam O'Connor
research teams

According to a comprehensive analysis of 1.4 million academic papers, the notion that larger research teams inevitably produce superior research has been debunked. Surprisingly, excessively large and diverse teams can even hinder research impact.

A recent study conducted by the University of Surrey examined data spanning from 1990 to 2020, encompassing over 1.4 million papers and 18 million citation counts across 22 management subfields. The study revealed no correlation between the size of research teams and the quality of their output.

Lead author Professor Sorin Krammer, a renowned expert in Strategy and International Business, expressed, “Despite the prevalence of large teams in research, there remains a lack of understanding regarding how their size and diversity affect their performance.”

“These findings can assist academics and potentially industry professionals in optimizing team organization based on their performance objectives,” Professor Krammer added.

The Surrey study evaluated research performance in two distinct dimensions: impact, measured by the citations garnered by a research paper, and prestige, indicated by the journal’s ranking in which it is published. Additionally, the researchers assessed diversity in terms of knowledge expertise and international representation.

The study concluded that neither the size nor the characteristics of teams consistently influenced research performance. It emphasized the need for caution when assuming that larger, more technically diverse teams are inherently superior.

Professor Krammer further remarked, “We also observed a lower success rate for single-authored papers. Often, single authors invest substantial amounts of time, resources, expertise, and effort into developing such research papers, which inherently have significantly lower success rates and impact. Consequently, the requirement imposed by many institutions for single-authored top publications as a prerequisite for tenure, promotion, or career advancement appears unnecessary and unjust.”

While both larger teams and increased diversity independently contribute to research performance, the study discovered that in extreme cases, combining these factors diminishes the impact of research, resulting in fewer citations.

Title: “An Ivory Tower of Babel? The Impact of Size and Diversity of Teams on Research Performance in Business Schools”
Authors: Sorin M. S. Krammer and Peter Dahlin
Date: 11 April 2023
Journal: Academy of Management – Learning and Education
DOI: 10.5465/amle.2021.0063

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about research teams

Question: What did the study analyze and reveal about the relationship between the size of research teams and research quality?

Answer: The study analyzed 1.4 million academic papers and found no correlation between the size of research teams and the quality of the research produced. It debunked the notion that larger teams necessarily produce better results. Additionally, in extreme cases, overly large and diverse teams were found to potentially decrease research impact.

More about research teams

  • University of Surrey: Link
  • Academy of Management – Learning and Education: Link
  • “An Ivory Tower of Babel? The Impact of Size and Diversity of Teams on Research Performance in Business Schools” (study reference): Link

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Jane82 July 13, 2023 - 10:46 am

wow, this study say bigger teams not always better? no way! i always thought big teams make better research. very interesting!

ResearchGeek July 13, 2023 - 7:53 pm

this study found no correlation btwn team size n research quality, its shocking. who would have thought? but gud to know dat diversity n large teams not always gud too. learnin somethin new here!

SciFiNerd July 13, 2023 - 10:24 pm

so, the big teams arent always da heroes of research? dat’s like a plot twist in a sci-fi movie! i guess size doesn’t matter after all. cool study!


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