Early View Article - The CERN Community; A Mechanism for Effective Global Collaboration?

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Gridlock is a term to describe the breakdown in cooperation of countries in international institutions to address policy problems that span borders; it refers both to deadlock in existing organisations and the difficulty of countries to come to new agreements as issues arise. Global science mega‐projects and their communities have seemingly been remarkably effective in evolving complex processes and mechanisms to enable collaboration. Previous research into CERN has focused on recounting the stories of CERN's scientific feats and technical innovations. This research has investigated the reasons behind these triumphs from a social sciences’ perspective to see why it is an exemplar of organisational success. The CERN communities’ governance and leadership regimes are examined. Extensive field work has added insights into two themes that emerge from the literature: the primacy of the state and the employment of combined routes through and beyond gridlock. Through exercising consensual governance with its Member States to manage multi‐polarity and using a light leadership approach with collaborative partners and international staff, CERN consistently achieves outstanding results. This research contributes to the global gridlock debate by being part of the examination of pathways and mechanisms in successful international collaborations.

Policy Implications

  • Inter‐Governmental Organization (IGO) should examine the extent that successful global science mega‐projects like CERN provide a model of consensual governance by employing combinations of pathway enabling mechanisms to actively, effectively and consistently manage multi‐polarity with their Member States.
  • IGOs should examine how CERN's leadership utilise a light approach with their international collaborative partners and staff; multi‐disciplinary teams are managed by exercising inclusiveness and consensus decision making.
  • International relations scholars should explore whether the applicability of the new beyond gridlock pathway of ‘innovative funding’, that the research reveals, applies to other domains.
  • International relations scholars should consider this research as a contribution to the global gridlock debate by being part of the examination of pathways and mechanisms in successful international collaborations.