Social network analysis of a scientist-practitioner research initiative established to facilitate science dissemination and implementation within states and communities
This article presents a case study of a scientist-practitioner research network established by the National Cancer Institute's State and Community Tobacco Control Research Initiative. While prior programs have focused on collaboration among scientists, a goal here was to encourage collaborations with non-university, practice-based partners. Two stages of analyses examine growth in the network and collaboration outcomes over a 2-year timeframe. First, visual and descriptive analyses were used to assess the network's structure and characteristics. Second, regression modeling was used to assess the relationship between investigator characteristics on active collaboration with non-university partners in research and coauthorship. Network analysis revealed an increasing number of connections, low and decreasing density, increasing centralization and select individuals with high degree and betweenness centralities. Investigator seniority and experience did not predict the active partner connections. Rather, scientists' betweenness centrality, or the extent to which they acted as bridges across the network, was the key predictor of collaboration. This finding suggests a novel way for dissemination-focused research programs to identify super-connector investigators to foster practitioner linkages.