Exchanging information through social links

INTERACT‐UNI EU‐SPRI Conference 2012
This paper shows that the features that characterize the exchange of information among individuals
vary depending on the type of information exchanged (novel or specific) and the institutional
affiliation of the individuals involved. It unbundles the concept of strong and weak links into three
main tie characteristics: trust, friendship and reciprocity. Using data from a survey of nanotechnology
researchers, we identify the characteristics of 594 links between researchers and individuals from
different institutional groups (firms, governmental organizations and universities). Findings suggest
behavioral regularities that are contingent on the kind of information being exchanged and the
contact’s institutional membership. For, instance, when university researchers exchange novel
information between themselves, the level of trust becomes essential, but exchanges with
individuals from other institutional settings (firms and governmental organizations) will be
characterized instead by reciprocity and friendship. We discuss the implications of these findings for
research on the relational perspective of social networks and university‐society relationships.
University of Twente, the Netherlands
Africa Villanueva-Felez; Jordi Molas-Gallart