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Toward a new understanding of virtual research collaborations: Complex adaptive systems framework

Virtual research collaborations (VRCs) have become an important method of conducting scientific activity; however, they are often regarded and treated as traditional scientific collaborations. Their success is measured by scholarly productivity and adherence to budget by funding agencies, participating scientists, and scholars. VRCs operate in complex environments interacting with other complex systems. A holistic (or organicist) approach is needed to make sense of this complexity. For that purpose, this study proposes using a new perspective, namely, the complex adaptive systems theory that can provide a better understanding of a VRC’s potential creativity, adaptability, resilience, and probable success. The key concepts of complex systems (diversity, interaction, interdependency, feedback, emergence, and adaptation) utilized in organization studies are used to discuss the behaviors of VRCs, illustrated with real-life examples.