Voluntary Engagement in Knowledge Sharing

Our paper titled “Lending a helping hand: Voluntary engagement in knowledge sharing” is available online at InderScience now. Together with my co-authors David Lazer and Maria Christina Binz-Scharf, we analyzed data on DNA Forensic Scientists and their informal knowledge sharing acitivities:

Knowledge is essential for the functioning of every social system, especially for professionals in knowledge-intensive organisations. Since individuals do not possess all the work-related knowledge that they require, they turn to others in search for that knowledge. While prior research has mainly focused on antecedents and consequences of knowledge sharing and understanding why people do not share knowledge, less is known why people provide knowledge, and what conditions trigger voluntary engagement in knowledge sharing. Our article addresses this gap by proposing a multi-level framework for voluntary engagement in knowledge sharing: individual, relational, group, and informational. We provide illustrations from a particular knowledge-intensive community, DNA forensic scientists who work at public laboratories.

Full paper version in pdf is available here.


Tapping into the wisdom of the crowd: Social network analysis software tools on Wikipedia

(I posted this on the Netgov blog and also on the Socnet list server earlier this weekend).

Together with Jana Diesner, CMU, and Matthias Meyer, WHU, I have started to collect information on social network analysis software packages and libraries.
In order to be able to make a selection from a larger pool of tools, we searched the literature and the Web for archives of tools that are widely accepted. Our goal here was to compile a systematic and (to an extent) exhaustive list of tools along with their main features, application areas and possibilities for interoperability across tools. We failed in this effort.

Clearly, there is a plethora of listings of some of the tools according to more or less explicitly stated categorization or selection criteria out there (e.g. INSNA and the chapter by Huisman and Duijn (2005) on Software for Social Network Analysis).

However, none of these lists seemed complete or up-to-date to us. We noticed that compiling our own list leads to the exact same problems, and we think we are not the only ones who went through this process. We thought this might be a good case for putting the wisdom of crowd idea into action in the social networks community. Our rationale here is that no single Web editor or researcher needs to carry the burden of building and/or maintaining such a collection, but collectively this goal can be achieved with very little individual effort.
Wikipedia has an elaborated site on Social networks (the Social network analysis site is automatically redirected there). We started to expand the network analytic section by adding a table – which was moved by the community within a day to a new page now called Social Network Analysis Software that allows everyone to add a tool along with a URL, short description, unique feature, platform it runs on, and price.

We hereby invite the social network community members to add their tools and/ or to edit/ fill some of the cells in the table. Note, the present structure of the table is a suggestion, and can be modified by anyone. Potentially, this table and the references associated with it might grow -in this case we might move the table to a new page that will be linked from the current page. If you have trouble working with the Wikipedia Table you can also send your information to Jana and we will integrate it into Wikipedia. We are looking forward to the collective results!

Ines Mergel
Jana Diesner
Matthias Meyer

Harvard conference on Political Science Networks (call for papers)

For the Harvard conference on Political Science Networks, June 13-14, 2008, I am organizing a Public Management and Networks panel. The conference is organized by David Lazer, Program on Networked Governance at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard U.

Here is the full call for papers:

The study of networks has exploded over the last decade, both in the social and hard sciences. From sociology to biology, there has been a paradigm shift from a focus on the units of the system to the relationships among those units. Despite a tradition incorporating network ideas dating back at least 70 years, political science has been largely left out of this recent creative surge. This has begun to change, as witnessed, for example, by an exponential increase in network-related research presented at the major disciplinary conferences.

We therefore announce an open call for paper proposals for presentation at a conference on “Networks in Political Science” (NIPS), aimed at _all_ of the subdisciplines of political science. NIPS is supported by the National Science Foundation, and sponsored by the Program on Networked Governance at Harvard University.

The conference will take place June 13-14. Preceding the conference will be a series of workshops introducing existing substantive areas of research, statistical methods (and software packages) for dealing with the distinctive dependencies of network data, and network visualization. There will be a $50 conference fee. Limited funding will be available to defray the costs of attendance for doctoral students and recent (post 2005) PhDs. Funding may be available for graduate students not presenting papers, but preference will be given to students using network analysis in their dissertations. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply.

The deadline for submitting a paper proposal is March 1, 2008. Proposals should include a title and a one-paragraph abstract. Graduate students and recent Ph.D.’s applying for funding should also include their CV, a letter of support from their advisor, and a brief statement about their intended use of network analysis. Send them to networked_governance@ksg.harvard.edu. The final program will be available at http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/netgov.
Program Committee: Christopher Ansell (UCBerkeley), James Fowler (UCSD), Michael Heaney (Florida), David Lazer (Harvard), Scott McClurg (Southern Illinois), John Padgett (Chicago), John Scholz (Florida State), Sarah Reckhow (UCBerkeley), Paul Thurner (Mannheim), and Michael Ward (University of Washington).

How do networkers network? New Working Paper

Together with Timothy Huerta, Texas Tech University, and Jennifer van Stelle, Stanford University, I have written a paper on “How do networkers network?”. We conducted a study of participants at the annual conference of INSNA (International Network of Social Network Analysts) to understand how young researchers are introduced into the community of senior researchers. The paper is work in progress at the moment and we would like to hear your comments, especially on our methodology.

You can find the paper in our working paper series (Working Paper # PNG07-005) and an abstract here:

This study was conceived during the 2005 INSNA conference by attendees who were interested in the evolving patterns of relationships among social network academics and consultants, and in how junior researchers were being integrated into the existing community. The study was also intended as a session- and space-planning aid for the 2006 conference organizers. Specifically, this paper describes a study of networking among social network professionals who attended the 2005 INSNA (International Network for Social Network Analysis) “Sunbelt” Conference. The attendees were asked to respond to two rounds of surveys regarding their experiences. We obtained data on existing and new ties in the first round of the survey, and tracked the maintenance or decay of those ties in the second round (approximately nine months later). We employ homophily arguments as well as theories of status and career/life cycle to determine what factors led to the establishment of ties from interactions at the conference. We consider the content of the new ties in addition to the above-mentioned theories to understand why such ties decayed or were maintained in the post-conference period. As well as applying the results of this study to the understanding of social network dynamics, we hope our findings will further the integration of new members into the existing community and enhance the session-scheduling and space-utilization aspects of conference planning.

Control Your Online Public Profile Using Social Networking Platforms

I just taught a segment in David Lazer’s Social Networking class at Harvard on how people can analyze and visualize their social networks. David invited the whole class to join him on LinkedIn and we noticed that a couple of students were hesitant to join due to security concerns. We have a very mixed audience of MPP, MPA, Midcareer and PhD students from all kinds of different industries – some of them from the military and security area. One of the students asked me: “Can you give me one good reason why I should join any of the social networking sites?” – given the background and affiliations of some of the students, I couldn’t come up with an argument why people should join – on the contrary I understand that some people need to keep a low public profile, so that not too much of their private information or details about their CV will become publicly available.

So I started to think about what are reasons why I have all my information uploaded to all kinds of websites? I have a Flickr page, an openBC/Xing profile, a LinkedIn profile, a personal website, a corporate website and post on my own blog and on our blog at the Kennedy School. Am I too open to give away this much information? On the other hand, I am not working in the military or security area, right?

It turns out that there are ways to control what people can find out about you. I talked with Bill Liao, the co-founder of Xing (formerly openBC) about this issue and he pointed me to the people finder search engine ZoomInfo. It is a search engine that gives summaries of people (Find tab) or let’s you create a more detailed profile online, so that recruiters, etc. can find you easier (BeFound tab). Controlling what you actually want other people to find about you comes with a price: pro version for $49/month. But it is definitely one way to control what information can be found about you and also a way to manipulate your online information.

I tried it and was surprised about the result (Remember, I have a at least seven different pages directly connected with my name where I actively produce content). Here is the result:

Ines’ profile on ZoomInfo.com

So there are four entries – one with the direct link to my Kennedy School subpage, but the others are from older sources tracking some of my (past) academic activities. That’s about it. Google on the other hand finds 13.200 different entries.

Another way of controlling what is found by Archive.com or Google seems to be to ask thems to take down some of your indexed information and not display it when people search for your name.

What are your thoughts on the dangers of having your information publicly available on social networking platforms? Are there any measures you take to avoid having too much information available for the rest of the world?

(hm… guess I just created another piece of publicly available information)

Check out also the Netgov Blog for additional comments on this posting.

Market Analysis of Social Network Analysis Books

Together with my co-author Dr. Marina Hennig from the Humboldt-University of Berlin, I conducted a market analysis of the main social network analysis books. We included English and German books. The results are written up in two working papers, published in German and English, in the Program on Networked Governance Working Paper Series, Harvard University.

Here is a short abstract:

We conducted a market analysis of existing books on social network analysis as a basis for a grant proposal submitted to the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG) in November 2006. The results of this analysis are included in this working paper format and open for discussion. We are eager to learn about alternative interpretation(s) or analysis dimensions and will be (are) happy to update this paper as soon as we receive valid comments or requests for changes.

Addition from January 11:

Valdis Krebs took the time to draw a nice network diagram based on our book analysis. He took the 11 English books as seeds (red circles) for an Amazon search and found related books that were bought on Amazon (click on the image below):


This complements nicely with our work on the network articles people cite in sociology journals during the last 15 years. See my privious post on citation patterns.