NSF Award #1536542: Collaborative Research: Connecting Women Faculty in Geotechnical Engineering – Thriving in a Networked World

Exciting news: Together with Professor Shobha Bhatia I received my first NSF Award as a Co-PI!

In our project with the title “Collaborative Research: Connecting Women Faculty in Geotechnical Engineering – Thriving in a Networked World”, we are studying how faculty use online technologies to network and collaborate.

Here is the award notice and abstract of our project:

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Project abstract:

This project focuses on professional networking outcomes among faculty in the geotechnical engineering community which will lead to broader impacts for the nation by improving retention, advancement and scientific collaboration of especially female geotechnical engineering faculty. Networking improvements will be facilitated by developing a cohesive intellectual community that provides access to mentoring, novel information and new resources, as well as collaboration partners. Using an intervention into the existing – largely disconnected – scientific community, female faculty will participate in networking workshops, as well as pre- and post-intervention surveys to understand their current networking needs, improvement of their networking abilities over time, and the impact their network ties have on academic collaboration. The goal of the intervention process is to lower isolation of female faculty in geotechnical engineering by creating and sustaining a supportive national network that drives career success in academia.

This project will apply social network analysis and professional development activities to improve networking and collaboration among geotechnical engineering faculty in order to bridge the geographical distance and connectivity gaps faced especially by female geotechnical engineering faculty. Building on past efforts of NSF and others, the project will create a network that fosters active tie creation and provides access to collaboration opportunities among geotechnical engineering faculty in the U.S. The intervention into the existing network combines face-to-face networking meetings and virtual networking practices to increase collaboration opportunities. The core challenges are: (a) how to sustain the attention network, (b) how to maintain strong connections among female faculty in their immediate professional environments and, (c) how to create weak ties that will help them in situations where their strong ties are unable to provide the social support, collaboration and information that they need. The outcomes of the research will improve the faculty’s understanding of the importance of networking, provide opportunities for sustaining collaborative connections with colleagues across the nation, and equip participants with the knowledge and skills to collaborate in a networked world. The summative evaluation, including a before and after social network analysis, will evaluate the effectiveness of the purposeful interventions into the existing network of mostly weak ties among geotechnical women faculty and recommend promising practices for use in other disciplines where women face similar challenges.

IBM Report: Social Intranet – Insights on Managing and Sharing Knowledge Internally

Mergel_IBM_SocialIntranet_GraphicIBM The Center for the Business of Government has published my new practitioner report titled “The Social Intranet – Insights on Managing and Sharing Knowledge Internally”.

The report highlights four different social networking sites (think: Government’s own internal Facebook) that are designed to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing opportunities among public servants. The insights are based on qualitative interviews I conducted with public managers who were in charge of designing the social Intranet sites and a review of the existing press coverage and academic literature on enterprise social technologies.

I included four different cases at different maturity stages and with different audiences and purposes:

  1. The Department of State’s Corridor site
  2. The intelligence community’s iSpace
  3. NASA’s SpaceBook, and
  4. The Government of Canada’s GCconnex site.

The full report is available via IBM’s report page here.

Here are a few media articles that covered the report:

Please let me know if you have any questions!


Reuse of social media information by public officials during crisis situations #smem

Together with my co-author Clayton Wukich who is the lead author on this paper, I just published a paper with the title “Reusing social media information in government” in Government Information Quarterly.


Across policy domains, government agencies evaluate social media content produced by third parties, identify valuable information, and at times reuse information to inform the public. This has the potential to permit a diversity of social media users to be heard in the resulting information networks, but to what extent are agencies relying on private citizens or others outside of the policy domain for message content? In order to examine that question, we analyze the online practices of state-level government agencies. Findings demonstrate that agencies emulate offline content reuse strategies by relying predominately on trusted institutional sources rather than new voices, such as private citizens. Those institutional sources predominantly include other government agencies and nonprofit organizations, and their messages focus mostly on informing and educating the public.

Please cite the article as: Wukich, C., & Mergel, I., Reusing social media information in government, Government Information Quarterly (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2016.01.011

My class blog makes the list of 50 must-read federal IT blogs

So proud of my students: FedTech Magazine published its list of the 50 must-read federal IT blogs today and my class blog “Digital Government and Social Media in the Public Sector” made it on the list. Very proud of my students!

Each student has to contribute at least five blogposts during the semester. It’s a difficult task, especially for former (and soon-again) government officials who are trained to write in government memo-style and usually don’t post their opinions or assessment publicly on a blog.

Some of the blogposts replicate our discussions in the class, my lectures, current events, but also introduce tools used in government operations in other countries. The diversity of the topics makes it a very rich experience for the students. They hear voices beyond my own in the classroom and I use the blog to supplement the material I present. Every time, someone mentions a video or a report that was not part of the reading material posted on Blackboard, I encourage the students to go online and share the links or videos on our class blog. I keep adding every new group of students as authors each semester and this eight-year old blog has now grown into a a large community of former students.


New article: Social Media Institutionalization in the U.S. Federal Government

Government Information Quarterly just published in pre-print status a new article that I wrote with the title: “Social Media Institutionalization in the U.S. Federal Government“.

Social media adoption changes the existing organizational technology paradigm of public sector organizations. This paper explains the internal decisions that are necessary before new technologies can be used to support the strategic mission of a government organization and which behavioral and technological changes are integrated into the organization’s standard operating procedures. This is an important theoretical contribution, because social media technologies are developed and hosted by third parties outside of government, with government’s role limited to reactively evaluating their internal needs, strategic alignment, and existing routines. Evidence from qualitative interviews with social media directors in the U.S. federal government and a digital ethnography of their online practices expand the existing theory of social media adoption by adding two distinct activities: strategic alignment and routinization which lead to the institutionalization of new technologies.

New technology adoption; Institutionalization; Social media; U.S. federal government

Mergel, I. (2015): Social Media Institutionalization in the U.S. Federal Government, in: Government Information Quarterly, doi:10.1016/j.giq.2015.09.002

Please let me know in case you like to see a copy of the full article!

New article: Open collaboration in the public sector – The case of social coding on GitHub

Cover imageGovernment Information Quarterly has just published a new article titled “Open collaboration in the public sector – the case of social coding on Github“.


Open collaboration has evolved as a new form of innovation creation in the public sector. Government organizations are using online platforms to collaborative create or contribute to public sector innovations with the help of external and internal problem solvers. Most recently the U.S. federal government has encouraged agencies to collaboratively create and share open source code on the social coding platform GitHub and allow third parties to share their changes to the code. A community of government employees is using the social coding site GitHub to share open source code for software and website development, distribution of data sets and research results, or to seek input to draft policy documents. Quantitative data extracted from GitHub’s application programming interface is used to analyze the collaboration ties between contributors to government repositories and their reuse of digital products developed on GitHub by other government entities in the U.S. federal government. In addition, qualitative interviews with government contributors in this social coding environment provide insights into new forms of co-development of open source digital products in the public sector.


  • Open collaboration is introduced as a new form of innovation creation to code, share, and improve government software code.
  • Quantitative data about contributions and reuse of software code is analyzed using a social network analysis approach.
  • Contributors to the government social coding process have the intention to improve existing code for inhouse reuse.
  • Contributors mostly hail from within government, while code reuse is distributed across the world.
  • Code is not limited to website elements or online platforms, but also includes datasets and draft policy document.


Mergel, I. (2015): Open collaboration in the public: The case of social coding on GitHub, in: Government Information Quarterly, 32(2015), pp. 464-472, doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2015.09.004.

New paper: Closing the Citizen-Government Communication Gap: Content, Audience, and Network Analysis of Government Tweets

Clayton Wukich and I have a new paper as part of a special issue on “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Crisis, Disaster, and Catastrophe Management” edited by Christopher G. Reddick and Akemi Takeoka Chatfield in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Our paper with the title: “Closing the Citizen-Government Communication Gap: Content, Audience, and Network Analysis of Government Tweets” uses tweets from State Emergency Managers to understand who is paying attention to official government tweets and how these tweets are reused by social media users.


A key task in emergency management is the timely dissemination of information to decision makers across different scales of operations, particularly to individual citizens. Incidents over the past decade highlight communication gaps between government and constituents that have led to suboptimal outcomes. Social media can provide valuable tools to reduce those gaps. This article contributes to the existing literature on social media use by empirically demonstrating how and to what extent state-level emergency management agencies employ social media to increase public participation and promote behavioral changes intended to reduce household and community risk. Research to this point has empirically examined only response and recovery phases related to this process. This article addresses each phase of emergency management through the analysis of Twitter messages posted over a 3-month period. Our research demonstrates that while most messages conformed to traditional one-to-manygovernment communication tactics, a number of agencies employed interactive approaches including one-to-one and many-to-many strategies.

Full reference:

Wukich, Clayton, and Ines Mergel. 2015. “Closing the Citizen-Government Communication Gap: Content, Audience, and Network Analysis of Government Tweets.” Journal of Homeland Security & Emergency Management 12 (3):707-735.