Drawbacks and benefits associated with inter-organizational collaboration along the discovery-development-delivery continuum: a cancer research network case study

Jenine K. Harris, Keith G. Provan, Kimberly J. Johnson, Scott J. Leischow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: The scientific process around cancer research begins with scientific discovery, followed by development of interventions, and finally delivery of needed interventions to people with cancer. Numerous studies have identified substantial gaps between discovery and delivery in health research. Team science has been identified as a possible solution for closing the discovery to delivery gap; however, little is known about effective ways of collaborating within teams and across organizations. The purpose of this study was to determine benefits and drawbacks associated with organizational collaboration across the discovery-development-delivery research continuum.Methods: Representatives of organizations working on cancer research across a state answered a survey about how they collaborated with other cancer research organizations in the state and what benefits and drawbacks they experienced while collaborating. We used exponential random graph modeling to determine the association between these benefits and drawbacks and the presence of a collaboration tie between any two network members.Results: Different drawbacks and benefits were associated with discovery, development, and delivery collaborations. The only consistent association across all three was with the drawback of difficulty due to geographic differences, which was negatively associated with collaboration, indicating that those organizations that had collaborated were less likely to perceive a barrier related to geography. The benefit, enhanced access to other knowledge, was positive and significant in the development and delivery networks, indicating that collaborating organizations viewed improved knowledge exchange as a benefit of collaboration. 'Acquisition of additional funding or other resources' and 'development of new tools and methods' were negatively significantly related to collaboration in these networks. So, although improved knowledge access was an outcome of collaboration, more tangible outcomes were not being realized. In the development network, those who collaborated were less likely to see 'enhanced influence on treatment and policy' and 'greater quality or frequency of publications' as benefits of collaboration.Conclusion: With the exception of the positive association between knowledge transfer and collaboration and the negative association between geography and collaboration, the significant relationships identified in this study all reflected challenges associated with inter-organizational collaboration. Understanding network structures and the perceived drawbacks and benefits associated with collaboration will allow researchers to build and funders to support successful collaborative teams and perhaps aid in closing the discovery to delivery gap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
JournalImplementation Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 25 2012


  • Cancer research
  • Exponential random graph modeling
  • Network analysis
  • Translational research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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