Poster Presented at WIN 2011 - 10.12.2011
WIN is a Social Networks Summit intended to foster collaboration and to build community. The increasing availability of massive networked data is revolutionizing the scientific study of a variety of phenomena in fields as diverse as Computer Science, Economics, Physics and Sociology. Yet, while many important advances have taken place in these different communities, the dialog between researchers across disciplines is only beginning. The purpose of WIN is to bring together leading researchers studying ‘information in networks’ – its distribution, its diffusion, its value, and its influence on social and economic outcomes – in order to lay the foundation for ongoing relationships and to build a lasting multidisciplinary research community. COSEE OCEAN presented a poster titled Ripple Effects: Small-Scale Investigations into the Sustainability of Ocean Education Networks. The poster was met with enthusiasm and interest, and the possibility of future collaborations.
Click here to see the COSEE OCEAN WIN Poster (Power Point, 1.78 MB)
Ripple Effects: Small-scale investigations into the sustainability of ocean education networks
R.F. Chen, S. M. Uzzo, R. Faux, C.B. Cramer
Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Sciences Department
University of Massachusetts Boston
Introduction The purpose of this paper is to discuss activities of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence-Ocean Communities in Education And social Networks (COSEE OCEAN) (www.coseeocean.net), employing Social Network Analysis (SNA) to help understand the effectiveness of the national COSEE Network and smaller educational networks. This case study describes the approach, implementation and some results of a short term scaled investigation of education networks using SNA, and may be of interest as a model of this approach.
Educational networks appear to be structured much like corporate ones, yet there have been relatively few attempts to look at the structure and dynamics of education systems and the resulting sustainability of these communities through a network lens. (Durland et al. 2005) Over the last year COSEE OCEAN has assembled an interdisciplinary team to look at the effectiveness and sustainability of networks of education communities that have been developed to promote the learning of ocean sciences.
It has been well-documented that the United States has slipped from first place in the areas of science and math education and discovery (Holdren et al. 2010). As a result there is a big push throughout the US educational system to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. (Augustine et al. 2007) One initiative developed to address this issue is the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) (www.cosee.net.),a large-scale experiment by NSF intended to enhance ocean science education.
Now entering its tenth year, the COSEE Network is comprised of 14 Centers around the United States coordinated by a National COSEE Office, and serves to bring networks of scientists and educators together to produce high quality and high capacity educational resources based on current ocean science. COSEE OCEAN is one of the 14 COSEE Centers, and has a goal of leveraging, enhancing and engaging existing networks. The activities of COSEE OCEAN described below are an attempt to begin to study the effectiveness of the COSEE Network, as it strives to engage ocean scientists in the effort to improve STEM education.
COSEE OCEAN Analysis COSEE OCEAN was established in October 2010, and is a focused team of research scientists, formal and informal educators, and network science experts. COSEE OCEAN is a well-defined, peer-reviewed project, well-funded by NSF to accomplish its goals, with named participants, a strategic plan, and a limited time (3 years) of activity.
As a first step and well-controlled example, we analyzed COSEE OCEAN itself, using a survey instrument intended to measure the structure of relationships among COSEE OCEAN participants both before COSEE OCEAN was launched and after it had been in operation for nine months. The survey gathered information on the patterns of relations among network participants at two time points - July 2010 and then again at June 2011. The questions asked of the respondents referred to varying levels in the frequency of interactions, relying on a 5-point scale. Data were downloaded by Davis Square Research Associates (DSRA) for cleaning in Excel, and most analyses conducted in UCINet and SPSS, with additional visualization support done in NetDraw.
The data show that the frequency of interactions among the participants in the COSEE OCEAN network significantly increased in frequency and social complexity over the June 2010- June 2011 year. The overall gains in centrality as well as the increases in the size of the participants’ ego networks clearly show that the network is becoming a highly interactive structure. The eigenvector out value shows that not only are more people interacting with more people, but more people are interacting with more people who are in turn interacting with more people. The measured increases in transitivity add additional support to this conclusion.
On the other hand, the centralization values remain high, indicating that information may be originating from a small number of nodes. This finding is corroborated by the increases in the power value, suggesting that the network’s centers of influence are fairly limited. This finding suggests that some actors are in positions of considerable influence, while others are not. Conversely, this finding also means that the actors with greater influence are also more exposed to other network actors, perhaps limiting the efficiency with which the more influential participants can act. This finding is further supported by the measured increases in the densities of the ego networks, a finding generally linked to less flexibility among those with dense ego networks.
NEOSEC Analysis A second case study is the New England Ocean Science Education Collaborative (NEOSEC)(www.neosec.org), of which COSEE OCEAN is a member. Founded in 2006, NEOSEC is a diverse networked collaboration of over forty institutions from across New England, including aquariums, museums, universities, government entities and science and research centers.
An SNA was conducted in 2008 to examine increase in communication among members after the initiation of the NEOSEC network, with a goal of developing future capacity. The SNA (27 respondents) was performed by Troy Hartley, University of New Hampshire, using InFlow software. As expected, there was an increase in communication across and among individuals; however, at a cut of more frequent interactions, with a weighted average pathlength of 2.91, several members appear to be quite isolated.
A second SNA is currently being performed based on the Himmelman model (Himmelman, A.T, 2002) to again assess the increase in collaboration among members. The new survey measures the structure constituted by the various NEOSEC organizations, with the data to be disaggregated according to salient organizational characteristics (such as size, longevity, etc.). NEOSEC has proven to be sustainable. It uses shared goals plus the interest and energy of its participating organizations to remain flexible while maintaining some organizational structure. It has been successful in organizing several groups within its network to receive federal funding for collaborative projects. This network responds to opportunity and has a high degree of trust, leading to enhanced sustainability.
COSEE Network Analysis In the planning stage is an SNA of the COSEE Network, comprised of 14 Centers plus a National Office, with approximately 200 members. The COSEE Network has a funding history, governance rules, cross-center working groups, and 3-5 year time lines for individual Centers, with a hierarchical organization. Knowledge, communication, and trust have evolved among Network members throughout the 10-year history.
COSEE OCEAN has conducted an initial look into how members view the COSEE Network from their particular perspective; some individuals appear to be better informed about the structure of the national Network than others. By including network science concepts in COSEE-sponsored presentations at national conferences, the ground is being prepared for buy-in to the Network-wide SNA. Through the use of SNA, COSEE OCEAN hopes to shed light on some of the characteristics and environments that can lead to an effective, sustainable network, and to study the effectiveness of the COSEE Network as it strives to engage ocean scientists in the effort to improve STEM education.
Conclusion The growth and development of highly structured or loosely organized networks in education result in communities that either last or not, depending on a host of internal and external parameters. To date we have found that education networks evolve from minimally-interacting individual nodes; to increased communication; to a flexible, sustainable network. Critical components are an increase in face-to-face interactions and resulting knowledge; shared goals and vision; and opportunities for collaboration.
As we examine how education networks function, we are developing a metric to characterize networks that govern functions. By examining a small, focused, but diverse set of networks of different scales within the ocean education arena, our goal is to use SNA to uncover the secrets of effective building of sustainable education networks. SNA offers an approach to study the scaling of educational network structures that can be well-suited to understanding the effectiveness of identifying bottlenecks in the network structure. It can serve as a diagnostic tool for optimizing network structure in order to achieve learning goals. The goal is to aid in the development of networks of engaged ocean scientists and educators - a powerful force for discovery.
Durland, M.M., Fredericks, K.A. (2005). An introduction to social network analysis. New Directions for Evaluation
Holdren, JP, Lander, E, Varmus, H,; PREPARE AND INSPIRE:
K-12 EDUCATION IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATH (STEM) FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2010
Augustine, N.R., Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (2007), Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP); National Academies Press, 2007
Himmelman, A.T., COLLABORATION FOR A CHANGE: Definitions, Decision-making models, Roles, and Collaboration Process Guide; (revised January 2002)
Return to News Archive