Initiating international collaboration: a study of the human genome organization

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Virginia Tech

The formation of the Human Genome Organization, nicknamed HUGO, in 1988 was a response by scientists to the increasing number of programs designed to examine in detail human genetic material that were developing worldwide in the mid 1980s and the perceived need for initiating international collaboration among the genomic researchers. Despite the expectations of its founders, the Human Genome Organization has not attained immediate acceptance either inside or outside the scientific community, struggling since its inception to gain credibility. Although the organization has been successful as well as unsuccessful in its efforts to initiate international collaboration, there has been little or no analysis of the underlying reasons for these outcomes. This study examines the collaborative activities of the organization, which are new to the biological community in terms of kind and scale, and finds two conditions to be influential in the outcome of the organization’s efforts: 1) the prior existence of a model for the type of collaboration attempted; and 2) the existence or creation of a financial or political incentive to accept a new collaborative activity.