Now that we have Skype and Facebook chat and email and teleconferencing and AOL Instant Messenger, what is the point of actually having a workplace? Why not work wherever we happen to be and, when and if others need us, beam in our eyes and ears? Because according to a new study from Harvard Medical School, when we collaborate remotely, our work may have less of an impact.
To be fair, the new study, published in PLoS ONE, looked at the effectiveness of scientific studies, so it was a bit of an exercise in academic navel-gazing, but the results may have implications across other types of work.
The authors analyzed a bunch of scientific studies, looking at how far away the participating researchers labored from one another. They then looked at how often those studies were cited by other scientists, which is a measure of how influential the work becomes.
They found that the closer together researchers worked, the more often other academics cited their study. This was especially true if the researcher listed first (usually the one judged most responsible for the work) and the one listed last worked near each other. The closer they were, whether they were in the same building, on the same campus, or on different campuses of the same institution, the louder their work seemed to talk.