Networks and the research environment


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Hazel Hall's presentation to PhD students as part of the ESRC Scottish Graduate School Doctoral Training Centre Information Science Pathway training day held at Edinburgh Napier University on 16th October 2012.

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Networks and the research environment

  1. 1. ESRC Scottish Doctoral Training CentreInformation Science PathwayTraining day 16th October 2012
  2. 2. Theme is networkingContext is informationscienceMix ofpresentations, exercises& discussions
  3. 3. First exercise Introductions  In turn, each person around the table to introduce him/herself
  4. 4. ESRC Scottish Doctoral Training CentreInformation Science PathwayTraining day 16th October 2012Networks and the research environment
  5. 5. Why focus on networking: individuals Networks are a resource for the conduct of affairs, giving privileged access to, for example: You hear about a free  Information place at a conference for a PhD student  Opportunities  Social status You are invited to apply for the free place Individuals trade intangibles Your known connections  Reputation have an influence as to  Credibility whether or not you are successful in your  Friendship application for the free  Collective knowledge place
  6. 6. Networks for research support In terms of research work, another key resource that depends on networks is support for funding and other forms of “buy-in”  Often there is a preference/requirement for proposed projects run jointly by two or more parties, both for applications for large amounts of money and for small scale “competitions”  An indication of how research findings will be disseminated across the community is also a requirement of an application for funding in most cases
  7. 7. Networks to help career development General support of research projects  Committee work  PhD sponsorship Specific help, e.g. access to data subjects, sites for data collection  Committee work  PhD case study “Esteem” roles: peer reviewing, work for research councils, editorial boards, conference programme committees, keynote speaker invitations etc – and associated travel  Conference conversations  opportunities abroad  Conference follow-up  book authorship
  8. 8. Internal organisational networks Internal projects also need resources  Support in the form of funding, staffing, time, attention Access to those who can offer these resources, and your ability to persuade them to share your agenda, strengthens the chances that your proposed projects will be supported
  9. 9. Network value is related to social capital Social capital and the generation of intellectual capital • Nahapiet, J. & Ghoshal. S. (1998). Social capital, intellectual capital, and the organizational advantage. Academy of Management Review, 23(2), 242-266. Social capital and knowledge sharing • Widén-Wulff, G. & Ginman, M. (2004). Explaining knowledge sharing in organizations through the dimensions of social capital. Journal of Information Science, 30(5), 448-458. Social capital, knowledge sharing and exchange theory • Hall, H., Widén, G., & Paterson, L. (2010). Not what you know, nor who you know, but who you know already: examining online information sharing behaviours through the lens of social exchange theory. Libri, 60, 117-128.
  10. 10. Early usage of the term “social capital” Research in, and the literature of, Community Studies concludes that social capital  is found in networks of relationships  depends on trust, co-operation and collective action  supports the survival and function of city neighbourhoods  supports childhood development in families
  11. 11. Central proposition of social capitalNetworks of relationships are a resource for the conductof affairs Networks can:  Be formal, e.g. family, class, school membership  Have weak ties, e.g. friends of friends  Have levels of focus: person, group, organisation, set of organisations
  12. 12. Network types Physical connection – co- Friendship, liking, respect – location at work evaluation of one person by anotherKinship/descent – biological ties
  13. 13. Dimensions of social capitalStructural dimension Overall pattern of connections among actors: who reaches whom and how this is achieved.Relational dimension Relationships developed through history of interaction between actors.Cognitive dimension Shared representations and interpretations.
  14. 14. Structural and relational dimensionsillustratedSocial network analysis to depict interactions (social/research-related) betweenactors in a network Before After
  15. 15. Cognitive dimensions of social capitalmore difficult to illustrateSocial network analysis to depict awareness of research expertise amongst actors Before After
  16. 16. Social capital is an unusual form of capital It’s owned jointly by partners in the relationship There’s no exclusive ownership of it It’s difficult to trade It has special features  It can achieve ends that would be too costly to achieve otherwise,  e.g. strong trust cuts down need for monitoring  It can achieve “unique” ends impossible to achieve otherwise  e.g. through the exploitation of weak ties
  17. 17. Networking to support research in context In general business terms  “Getting on with people, especially at events”  People wearing badges on a mission seek out new (sales) contacts in “rich” environments In research environment  Approach to working – from making connections to engaging in the discourse of the domain  Need to play a “long” game  Some events are really worth attending, for example for information science iDocQ, i3, ASIST Annual Meeting  Some people are really worth seeing
  18. 18. Some peculiarities: establishedresearchers They know one another very well  and it’s unlikely that you know much about the relational dimension of their shared social capital Generally academics become less “conservative” as their careers progress  odd behaviours observed amongst professors (for example) are probably just that – and are not something to be emulated  You dress to inspire confidence, trust, credibility, assurance  Your written communications should do the same Don’t begin “peculiar”!  You want to be remembered for your research (and not your silly hat/hysterical laughter/collection of teddies/partner’s pet name…)
  19. 19. Further peculiarities: information science Well-organised community  Particularly in online spaces such as mailing lists and Twitter  News spreads fast Small community  Beware Dunbar’s number