Research

I primarily work in the areas of social network analysis and computational social science, with substantive interests in the (1) science-policy interface and (2) environmental governance and social movements. As a computational social scientist, my most general research goal is to advance our knowledge of how social networks and institutions affect the spread of information, knowledge, beliefs, biases, and behaviors. I am currently involved in a number of research projects in service of that larger goal, some of which are described below.

Science-Policy Interface

(Policy for Science + Science for Policy)

My current research on the science-policy interface focuses on measuring and comparing changes in the institutional boundaries between governments, industry, and scientific communities across countries, and modeling the effects of these changes on how science gets done. For example, my current SSHRC-funded project on biomedical research and development networks speaks to the rapidly growing interdisciplinary literature on the changing relationships between universities, industry, nonprofits, and governments. For over two decades, the dominant theory has been that scientific innovation and economic development are fueled by frequent interactions within a “triple-helix” of entrepreneurial universities, industry, and government. From the perspective of triple-helix theory, increasingly hybrid institutional arrangements enhance the development, transfer, and application of innovative science and technology by making it easier to generate new combinations of knowledge, ideas, and resources. These hybrid contexts open up unexpected opportunities for innovation and economic development in knowledge-based economies. Other research, however, shows how commercialization makes science more proprietary and market driven, and that industry funding tends to produce findings that are favorable to commercial interests and not in the public interest. Despite this large and rapidly growing literature, we do not yet know how new open science policies and practices are changing biomedical R&D networks, or how the structure of those networks are shaping the adoption of open or proprietary science practices. To that end, I am currently collecting, linking, and analyzing data on collaboration networks, publications, patents, and open science practices in biomedical R&D networks in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia. Journal articles are in progress. We will soon be scaling the project up to include other countries, and are in the early stages of comparisons with networks in the environmental sciences.

Relatedly, I am currently focused on a series of papers on (i) team organization and dynamics in biomedical and environmental science, (ii) network models of collective intelligence and the effects of diversity and inclusive team dynamics in the production of high-impact science, (iii) methods for addressing “big literature” problems by combining systematic reviewing with network analysis and computational text analysis, and (iv) the diffusion of information and ideas across disciplinary boundaries.

In addition to writing journal articles in this area, I work with students in NetLab on the development of open source research software (e.g. metaknowledge for science of science, pdpp for “principled data processing” and reproducible science). I also co-organize and co-instruct Science Outside the Lab North with Eric Kennedy from York University and the Forum on Science, Policy, and Society.

Environmental Governance and Social Movements

My second main area of research is environmental governance and social movements. I am currently a co-investigator on two projects funded by SSHRC Insight Grants. The first, with Mark Stoddart (Memorial University) as PI, is broadly concerned with the problem of how coastal societies navigate the relationships between extractive development (i.e. natural resource extraction) and attractive development (i.e. economies based on tourism, leisure, recreation). A great deal of environmental science research focuses only on one of these two very different ways of living with and making a living from coastal environments. By contrast, we examine both socio-ecological development models together in a systematic comparison of five North Atlantic regions: Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Scotland. I am currently co-authoring a book based on this project with Mark Stoddart (Memorial University) and Alice Mattoni (Scuola Normale Superiore in the Istituto di Scienze Umane, Florence).

I am also co-investigator on a SSHRC-funded project led by David Tindall (University of British Columbia) about social networks and collective action related to climate change. This project has two primary goals. First, our project evaluates the major social movement theories of mobilization into activism by including both mobilized and unmobilized people in a national probability sample survey. This is unique, as most social movement studies are based on samples of already mobilized people, which makes it difficult to evaluate explanations of mobilization. Second, our project compares the effectiveness of face-to-face versus digital networks in mobilization into climate action.

In addition to these two projects, I was the lead organizer of a workshop on environmental governance at the University of Waterloo in 2016. Our workshop, which was funded by a grant from the Balsillie School of International Affairs, brought together experts in science policy, climate science, environmental sociology, environmental law and policy, political sociology, and resource extraction. I collaborated on a follow-up workshop on “Climate Change and Energy Futures” with Mark Stoddart (Memorial University), Vanessa Schweizer (University of Waterloo), and Catherine Wong (University of Luxembourg), which was held at Memorial University in October 2018.

Please be in touch if you would like to learn more about any of these projects!


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