Mapping faculty social networks helps female faculty move ahead at NJIT
New Jersey Institute of Technology: A new project funded by the National Science Foundation used social network mapping to expose collaborations between colleagues and how or whether this led to career advancement. Researchers concluded that women faculty in STEM careers are often excluded from the information flow, and that male faculty with male mentors tended to advance more quickly.
"Long before Facebook introduced its hot new Social Graph app, researchers in the ADVANCE project at NJIT were pioneering the use of social network mapping to help women scientists and engineers supercharge their career.
Beginning in 2006 with an NSF "proof of concept" Institutional Transformation grant, the project mined the Internet for information about who at NJIT collaborates with whom, constructing an interactive database containing over 7,200 publications produced between 2000 and 2008 by NJIT faculty. Statistical modeling and visual mapping of this data established a strong correlation between collaboration and career advancement. It also revealed hidden gender patterns, some of them predictable, others surprising. Predictably, male faculty tended to collaborate with other male faculty far more than with female faculty. Surprisingly, for women faculty, network structure --in particular, being connected to well-connected colleagues -- was a more reliable predictor of career success than number of publications.
'A new NSF-funded study shows that the ability of groups to come up with innovative solutions to problems increases with the proportion of women in the group. The purpose of the NSF ADVANCE program is to bring about institutional change so that women scientists and engineers will be in the room when the crucial decisions are made," she said. "The new network mapping tools we are developing at NJIT make an important contribution to that process, allowing researchers across the country to actually see institutional transformation as it occurs.'"