This article presents the design and implementation of a network intervention to foster scientific collaboration at a research university, and describes an experimental framework for rigorous evaluation of the intervention’s impact. Based on social network analysis of publication and grant data, an innovative type of research funding program was developed as a form of alteration of the university’s collaboration network. The intervention consisted in identifying research communities in the network and creating a new collaborative relation between pairs of unconnected researchers in selected communities. The new collaboration was created to maximally increase the overall cohesion of the target research community. In order to evaluate the impact of the program, we designed a randomized experiment with treatment and control communities based on the Rubin Causal Model approach. The paper describes the intervention design, reports findings from the program implementation, and discusses the statistical framework for future evaluation of the intervention.
A growing body of evidence shows that collaborative teams and communities tend to produce the highest-impact scientific work. This paper proposes a new method to (1) Identify collaborative communities in longitudinal scientific networks, and (2) Evaluate the impact of specific research institutes, services or policies on the interdisciplinary collaboration between these communities. First, we apply community-detection algorithms to cross-sectional scientific collaboration networks and analyze different types of co-membership in the resulting subgroups over time. This analysis summarizes large amounts of longitudinal network data to extract sets of research communities whose members have consistently collaborated or shared collaborators over time. Second, we construct networks of cross-community interactions and estimate Exponential Random Graph Models to predict the formation of interdisciplinary collaborations between different communities. The method is applied to longitudinal data on publication and grant collaborations at the University of Florida. Results show that similar institutional affiliation, spatial proximity, transitivity effects, and use of the same research services predict higher degree of interdisciplinary collaboration between research communities. Our application also illustrates how the identification of research communities in longitudinal data and the analysis of cross-community network formation can be used to measure the growth of interdisciplinary team science at a research university, and to evaluate its association with research policies, services or institutes.
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