Two essays on the origins of academic collaborative networks
Date of Issue2016
College of Business (Nanyang Business School)
While research has provided significant evidence on the important role of social networks in knowledge creation and transfer, little is known about how social networks are formed, and empirical work is particularly lacking. Using data on samples of academic scholars, this dissertation aims to investigate the origins of academic collaborative networks. In the first essay, I examine how the formation of collaborative networks is influenced by the joint effects of organizational setting and individual productivity in the early career of academic scholars. The findings show that to exploit the resources afforded by the prestige of their institution, the higher the prestige of the institution where the scholars secured their employment, the more attention they allocated to forming external ties and the sparser the internal network they had. In addition, I found that less productive scholars were more motivated to form sparse networks to acquire the opportunities and resources presented within prestigious institutions. A possible reason for this unexpected finding is that less productive scholars in prestigious institution are likely to have greater pressure to publish, due to the more competitive peer environment and higher performance standards at more prestigious institutions. In the second essay, integrating cognitive and social network perspectives, I argue that individuals’ pre-existing knowledge can influence their capacity to absorb from and transfer knowledge to potential partners, thereby affecting the likelihood of an initial encounter to become a successful collaboration. The results show that knowledge breadth is positively associated with the amount of new ties one forms, and that knowledge depth is curvilinearly related to the amount of new ties one forms assuming an inverted U shape. In addition, I find that new ties partially mediate the relationship between knowledge depth and knowledge acquisition. These findings suggest that there can be bidirectional dynamics between individual knowledge and network formation such that people with adequate knowledge breadth and depth are more apt to form new ties, which in turn will lead to more new knowledge. Overall, connecting social network perspective with human agency and cognitive perspectives, this research sheds light on how individual collaborative networks are formed.