Understanding the Alliance Data
60 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2014
Date Written: January 2, 2008
A considerable body of research utilizes large alliance databases (e.g., SDC, MERIT-CATI, CORE, RECAP, and BIOSCAN) to study inter-organizational relationships. Understanding the strengths and limitations of these databases is crucial for informing database selection and research design. I conduct an analysis of five prominent alliance databases, examining their consistency of coverage and completeness, and assessing whether different databases yield the same patterns in sectoral composition, temporal trends, and geographic patterns in alliance activity. I also replicate three previously-published alliance studies to assess the impact of data limitations on research outcomes. The results suggest that the databases only report a fraction of formally announced alliances, which could have detrimental consequences for some types of research. However, the databases exhibit strong symmetries in patterns of sectoral composition, alliance activity over time, and geographic participation. Furthermore, the replications of previous studies yielded results that were highly similar to those obtained in the original studies. This study thus provides some reassurance that even though the databases only capture a sample of alliance activity, they may yield reliable results for many -- if not all -- research purposes. This information should help researchers make better-informed decisions about their choice of database and research design.
Keywords: alliances, joint ventures, methodology, networks, sampling theory
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