An exciting new article I read today aligns with some thoughts I’ve had about the development of academic research networks. The article (cited below) looks carefully at the addition and loss of people in individual research networks, a process called “churn.” The article categorizes churn in research networks as either exploratory or exploitative, in which an individual researcher develops ties to new people or severs old relationships (exploratory), or depends on existing ties (exploitative).
The article examines the research networks of a group of scientists over time, to see if the addition/loss of people in those scientists’ networks has an effect on production (measured outputs in this article are publications, grant submissions, successful grant submissions, and grant dollar amounts). A couple of interesting findings: adding new people to one’s research network did not have a significant effect on the number of publications a researcher completed, but a severing of old relationships did; network size had a positive effect on the number of publications completed. They suppose that, “larger networks may also lead to a diversity of ideas.” (p. 8)
I think these findings are especially meaningful to those who are young in their research productivity. We found in our own work, for example, that the networks of the novice librarian-researchers who participate in the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship have active, developing networks, with a lot of churn (cited below). Of course one would expect this at the outset of a research career, but it is useful to think that the addition of new people and the size of one’s network may be able to help these librarian-researchers get to their goals (publications) more efficiently.
Kennedy, Marie R., David P. Kennedy, and Kristine R. Brancolini. 2017. “The Evolution of the Personal Networks of Novice Librarian Researchers.” portal 17(1): 71-89.
Siciliano, Michael D., Erich W. Welch, Mary K. Feeney. 2017 (in press). “Network exploration and exploitation: Professional network churn and scientific production.” Social Networks. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2017.07.003