International scientific consortia are becoming ever more critical spills around which we organise efforts to address global challenges in areas such as health, the environment, and clean energy. Big science projects used to be few and far between, and mostly concentrated in physics and astronomy. In these disciplines increasing costs of experimental equipment necessitated scientists to concentrate work at facilities like Fermilab and CERN. The consortia that we focus on in the INSCONS project are often similar to these traditional big science projects in terms of their high costs. However, their organisational set-up is different because work within these consortia is geographically dispersed across research groups from multiple countries. For example, work carried out by the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, which sequenced the human genome at a cost of €5 billion+ was dispersed across universities and research centres located in France, Germany, the US, UK, Japan and China.

As international scientific consortia are proliferating, our understanding of the distinctive organizational dynamics governing these consortia has lagged behind. These consortia are complex, distinctive organisations with work being carried out at sites around the world, and involving international stakeholder groups from across the realms of science, policy, and industry. Moreover, international scientific consortia often must navigate funding uncertainties associated with the shifting national political currents across many contributing countries. As a result, delays, political infighting, and budget overruns are commonplace. In addition, because of the significant resources involved, processes of contestation by scientific groups from within and outside scientific consortia tend to be particularly fierce.

INSCONS will develop novel organisational theory and frameworks that will support both the advancement of scholarship and practice of international scientific consortia. To illuminate the distinctive challenges and dynamics that characterise the work of international scientific consortia, we work together as an interdisciplinary team and employ a mix of quantitative and qualitative research methods. We do this in the context of three case studies of international consortia and the scholarly fields these consortia are embedded in.


Characterise the organisational frameworks of international scientific consortia and their impact on scientific work
Assess processes of scientific inclusion and exclusion tied to the creation and development of international scientific consortia
Examine political economy aspects of international scientific consortia
Define interplay between the academic and corporate spheres linked to international scientific consortia
Communicate project findings to academic colleagues, international scientific consortia stakeholders and policy makers

Case Studies

Three case studies of large, international scientific consortia in nuclear fusion research, biomedicine, and the geosciences are at the core of INSCONS. The selected consortia not only offer a perspective on differences in the organisation of such consortia across disciplines, these consortia also differ along other key organisational dimensions we are interested in. These include differences in governance structures, the geographic distribution of work, and the design of information exchange systems.

Work Packages

Organisational frameworks of international scientific consortia
Lead researchers: Richelle Boone and Kaela Slavik
The role of international scientific consortia in shaping the scientific communities they are embedded in
Lead researcher: Dominika Czerniawska, PhD
The politics of international scientific consortia
Lead researcher: Anna-Lena Rüland
International scientific consortia and industry
Lead researcher: Regien Sumo, PhD
Made on