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Mapping faculty social networks helps female faculty move ahead at NJIT
Date:12/16/2010

Long before Facebook introduced its hot new Social Graph app, researchers in the ADVANCE project at NJIT were pioneering the use of social network mapping to help women scientists and engineers supercharge their careers.

"Universities are more than buildings and balance sheets. They're webs of human interaction," said Nancy Steffen-Fluhr, director of NJIT's Murray Center for Women in Technology and the ADVANCE project leader. "The complex structure of those webs is largely invisible to the people embedded in them, however -- especially women scientists and engineers. Because they're still relatively few in number, women faculty in science, technology, engineering and math can easily get disconnected from the information flow without even realizing it. That's where we come in: we make the invisible visible."

Support for this work was provided by a two-year $500,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Institutional Transformation Grant, one of only eight such grants awarded nationally in 2010.

Beginning in 2006 with an NSF "proof of concept" Institutional Transformation grant, the project mined the Internet for information about who at NJIT collaborates with whom, constructing an interactive database containing over 7,200 publications produced between 2000 and 2008 by NJIT faculty. Statistical modeling and visual mapping of this data established a strong correlation between collaboration and career advancement. It also revealed hidden gender patterns, some of them predictable, others surprising. Predictably, male faculty tended to collaborate with other male faculty far more than with female faculty. Surprisingly, for women faculty, network structure --in particular, being connected to well-connected colleagues -- was a more reliable predictor of career success than number of publications.

Building on this previous work, NJIT ADVANCE researchers are introducing network mapping tools for the next two years to make it easier for
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Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
sheryl.m.weinstein@njit.edu
973-596-3436
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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