"This kind of rigorous social science research is very much in the ISR tradition," said James S. Jackson, director of ISR. "Similar principles were used by the ISR founders in designing the 1965 ISR building. We invested in this study in order to assist the NCRC but also to inform our decisions about how the new addition to the ISR-Thompson building, now under construction, can maximize interdisciplinary collaborations and success in achieving funding for research from a variety of external sources."
The study, which is the most extensive attempt to date to elucidate the socio-spatial dynamics of successful scientific research collaborations, tests assumptions about proximity and social networks that have stood unexamined for half a century.
One of these assumptions is that passive contacts between inhabitants of a buildingjust bumping into people as you go about your daily businessmakes it more likely that you'll share ideas and eventually engage in formal collaborations. This assumption is based on the work of ISR researcher Leon Festinger, who studied the friendships that developed among dormitory residents in the 1950s.
Owen-Smith and colleagues examined the relationship between office and lab proximity and walking patterns, and found that linear distance between offices was less important than overlap in daily walking paths. They developed the concept of zonal overlap as a way to operationalize Festinger's idea of passive contact.
"We looked at how much overlap existed for any two researchers moving between lab space, office space, and the nearest bathroom and elevator," Owen-Smith said. "And we found that net of the
|Contact: Diane Swanbrow|
University of Michigan