Long-term community development within a researcher network: A social network analysis of the DREaM project cadre

Hazel Hall (Centre for Social Informatics, School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK)
Peter Cruickshank (Centre for Social Informatics, School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK)
Bruce Ryan (Centre for Social Informatics, School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 9 July 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report the results from a study that investigated the extent to which an intervention to develop a community of library and information science (LIS) researchers – the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project – was successful in meeting its main objective three years after its implementation. Of particular interest are factors that support or hinder network longevity.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected by online survey/telephone and focus group. From quantitative data, a social network analysis (SNA) and network diagrams were generated. Focus group discussions were recorded and transcribed, and data from these were analysed manually.

Findings

Three years after the end of its formal funding period, DREaM endured as a loose but persistent network. Social ties were more important than work ties, and network members with the highest network centrality held roles in academic institutions. Physical proximity between members was important to the maintenance of network ties. Actor status did not appear to have a bearing on network centrality.

Research limitations/implications

Discussion is limited to consideration of community development amongst core members of the network only. The “manufactured” nature of the DREaM network and unique context in which it was formed have implications for the generalisibility of the findings reported.

Practical implications

Social infrastructure is key to the long-term health of a network initiative. Continued ad hoc support would strengthen it further.

Originality/value

The findings add to understanding of factors important to the development of scholarly and learning communities. They extend contributions of earlier work that has deployed SNA techniques in LIS research and research in other fields.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Library and Information Science Research Coalition. The AHRC provided funding to Edinburgh Napier University for the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project (AH/I001417/1), and the project benefited from the support of the member bodies of the Library and Information Science Research Coalition. The authors are also grateful to Edinburgh Napier University for providing further funding to support DREaM Again. This allowed for an investigation of the impact of the DREaM’s project three years after its implementation. This work would not have been possible without the generosity of the DREaM cadre members who gave their time to take part in DREaM Again. In addition, the authors of this paper would like to thank Dr Louise Cooke and John Mowbray for their feedback on an early draft of the manuscript.

Citation

Hall, H., Cruickshank, P. and Ryan, B. (2018), "Long-term community development within a researcher network: A social network analysis of the DREaM project cadre", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 74 No. 4, pp. 844-861. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-05-2017-0069

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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