An evaluation of social networks within federally funded research projects
Keywords:scientific collaboration, network connectivity, evaluation
United States federal agencies fund research to promote discovery and innovation. Most agencies require collaboration because teams promote productivity to a greater degree than singular researchers. However, the functionality and productivity of collaboration is poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the collaborative structure of a federally funded entomology research team to determine the characteristics of the network structure and its impact on research collaboration using social network analysis (SNA) methodology. An online survey and interviews were used to collect data. The theories of social network, strong and weak ties, and scientific collaboration were employed to determine the degree of collaboration among team members. We found a low density pattern of collaboration that was associated with: (a) a centralized pattern, (b) the presence of sub-teams functioning like sub-networks, and (c) the presence of less interactive members. Our results confirm that the SNA approach was useful for evaluating network collaboration with innovative indicators to assess the dynamics of scientific collaboration. The study was limited by non-response. Future research should focus on collecting SNA data longitudinally of the whole network to determine how networking structure and benefits evolves over time, and how strong and weak ties impact scientific discovery.
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