Negotiating knowledge: The advantages of a hedging networking behavior for high scientific impact

11/05/2022 to 13/05/2022
OIS Research Conference 2022
Extant research on networks has shown that networks with greater diversity and richer in structural holes are conducive to advancing science and innovation. In tune with Schumpeter¿s notion that scientific progress stems from recombinatorial processes, it is argued that individuals whose networks span more diverse groups or whose contacts are less tightly interconnected have a vision advantage in spotting opportunities for novel recombination that those with less diverse or overly closed networks are ill-placed to see. We argue that such a brokerage-as-a-structure advantage is, however, only half the story. The sheer presence of diversity or structural holes in networks does not take explicitly into consideration the content accessed through the network. However, the type of content accessed from disparate parts of the network is likely to be critical for the capacity to identify and act upon novel recombinations of knowledge. The brokerage-as-a-structure arguments leave unresolved the question if an individual, with a given network structure, is better placed to advance science and innovation if they attain the same type of input from multiple of their network contacts, or if they rely on different contacts for different types of input. In other words, is network behavior whereby individuals ¿hedge¿ or triangulate input across their contacts more ¿ or less ¿ conducive to science and innovation outcomes than network behavior whereby individuals leverage different contacts for different reasons? In this paper, we argue that individuals will be better able to advance science and innovation if they exploit their network for greater hedging. Specifically, we predict that scientists who hedge to a greater extent ¿ i.e. who consult multiple of their network contacts for the same input ¿ will be better able to generate high-impact science outputs, and that such an effect should manifest above and beyond the widely established impact of network structure and diversity. Using granular data of the network mobilization decisions of 826 biomedical scientists, we contrast the effect of brokerage-as-a-structure and brokerage-as-a-behavior. We find support for our prediction that network hedging is positively associated with the production of high-impact scientific output, and that this effect is manifest above and beyond the benefits of having more diverse networks and networks richer in structural holes.
Geneva, Suiza
Adrián A. Díaz-Faes, Anne ter Wal, Pablo D’Este