Abstract: Using Social Network Maps to Promote Collaboration Among Faculty (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

562P Using Social Network Maps to Promote Collaboration Among Faculty

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Sarah Narendorf, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Sandra Jeter, MSW, Instructional Assistant, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Background: Research suggests that faculty collaboration encourages engagement and teamwork which can lead to productivity (Maslach, 2011). There have been increasing moves to foster faculty collaboration, from the creation of faculty research abroad programs (Barczyk et al, 2012), to grant programs that are specifically designed to award collaborative teams (Wisconsin Partnership Program, 2019). Yet, many faculty members find it difficult to locate opportunities for collaboration, even within their own departments. Difficulties may arise in the form of cultural differences and communication barriers, time conflicts, and power imbalances. However, one element that has been key in promoting successful collaboration among faculty is awareness of shared interests and complementary skills (Baldwin & Chang, 2007). One novel approach to visually depicting shared connections is the use of social network maps. The aim of this study was to explore the potential of using social network maps to promote collaboration within one social work department.

Methods: Faculty (n=26) were sent a Qualtrics survey where they self-identified their research areas and areas of methods expertise. This was then used to create a second survey where they endorsed whether they shared each of the interests identified in the first survey as well as their areas of methods expertise. Final survey data was imported into the ucinet social network software which was used to draw a series of maps depicting areas of interest. Results were grouped into major areas of common interest and shared with faculty in a presentation format.

Results: Fifty areas of interests were nominated in the first stage by 22 faculty (85% of all faculty) and assessed in the second survey. Faculty endorsed a mean number of 11 interests each with a range from 1-24. Most topics had up to 8 common members with a mean of 3 people across all areas. Topic areas endorsed by 4 or more members were included in one social network map. Visual depictions enabled identification of several cross-cutting research areas including social determinants of health, implementation science, social injustice and oppression, positive youth development, and stigma. Common methods used by faculty included community based participatory research approaches. Faculty reported the information presented assisted them in identifying potential connections and requested future professional development and interest groups to foster connections that built on the convergence in the network maps

Conclusion: Social network mapping of substantive area and methods yielded new insights into shared interests that span traditionally conceptualized boundaries such as mental health, older adults and child welfare. In seeking to promote collaboration, visually depicting potential relationships may assist researchers to see the areas of commonality with others and may invite those with similar interests to reach out and have follow-up conversations. Future research is needed to identify whether network maps lead to new collaborative projects such as co-authored publications and grants and what supportive activities best support the use of this tool. For research administrators seeking to promote collaboration, however, this study provides an example of one new approach to foster awareness of shared connections.