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A Comparison between International Trade and R&D Collaboration Networks in the European Aerospace Sector

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Abstract: Do trading countries also collaborate in R&D? This is the question that, facing with a number of methodological problems, here it is dealt with. Studying and comparing the international trade network and the R&D collaboration network of European countries in the aerospace sector, social network analysis offers a wide spectrum of methods and criteria either to make them comparable or to evaluate its similarity. International trade is a 1-mode directed and valued network, while the EU-subsidized R&D collaboration is an affiliation (2-mode) undirected and unvalued network, and the elementary units of this latter are organizations and not countries. Therefore, to the aim to make these two networks comparable, this paper shows and discusses a number of methodological problems and solutions offered to solve them, and provides a multi-faceted comparison in terms of various statistical and topological indicators. A comparative analysis of the two networks structures is made at aggregate and disaggregate level, and it is shown that the common centralization index is definitively inappropriate and misleading when applied to multi-centered networks like these, and especially to the R&D collaboration network. The final conclusion is that the two networks resemble in some important aspects, but differ in some minor traits. In particular, they are both shaped in a core-periphery structure, and in both cases important countries tend to exchange or collaborate more with marginal countries than between themselves.

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