he NETWISE research group is a multi-institutional research group that conducts research on questions related to how social and professional networks matter in the careers of academic scientists, with special attention to women and underrepresented minorities.

The underrepresentation of women and the “invisibility” of minorities in academic science are recognized to be a significant national policy crisis and “waste” of human capital (NAS, 2007). A common thread in many of studies regarding the advancement of women and minorities in STEM fields is reference to the importance of professional networks. We hope to contribute to both the theoretical understanding of how networks matter in the career advancement of academic scientists, but also to provide findings that will be useful in improving practice.

Our research is funded through two major National Science Foundation grants:

NETWISE: Project Publications

Kiopa*, Agrita J. Melkers and E. Tanyildiz (2009) “Women in academic science: mentors and career development” in Women in Science and Technology (Editors:, Sven Hemlin, Luisa Oliveira and Katarina Prpic.) (Zagreb: Croatia: (Institute for Social Research and SSTNET (Sociology of Science and Technology Network) of European Sociological Association (ESA.)

An important institutional response to the underrepresentation and attrition of women in science and engineering fields has been the emergence of formal mentoring programs for women faculty. The establishment of mentor-mentee relationships are intended to assist women in career development, navigation of the academic system, and addressing issues specific to women in the underrepresented fields of science and engineering. In the United States, there are an increasing number of institutions adopting formal mentoring programs designed to assist in career development, productivity, and satisfaction for these individuals. The findings of the few empirical studies that addressed the gender differences in mentoring effects on career outcomes are mixed. In this chapter, we review issues in mentoring for women faculty in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, and provide recent survey research findings on mentoring experiences by faculty in six fields of science and engineering in Research I institutions in the United States. Our descriptive results show gender differences in the structure of mentor relationships, as well as the resources obtained from those resources.

Melkers, Julia and Fang Xiao * (2009) “Boundary-Spanning in Emerging Technology Research: Determinants of Funding Success for Academic Scientists,” Forthcoming 2009, Journal of Technology Transfer.

Emerging technologies, including nanotechnologies, are generally seen as those latest scientific innovations which have a potential impact on industry structure, and commercialization and economic potential. In recent years, an increasing number of scientists are conducting research in areas of emerging technology, and becoming active in commercializing their scientific discoveries. The work in this area of emerging technologies has distinct boundary spanning characteristics from the perspective of academic science. First, many emerging technologies involve collaboration of scientists across disciplinary boundaries. Second, because of the commercializability of many emerging technologies, scientists may interact more often with industry throughout the research and commercialization process. We ask, what are the boundary-spanning characteristics of scientists engaged in emerging technology research and how do those characteristics matter in obtaining funding in this area? In this paper, we examine the characteristics of U.S. academic scientists engaged in funded research in the area of emerging technologies, and the factors that predict their grants success, particularly interdisciplinarity and industry-related activities. Findings reveal that interdisciplinary activities and industry orientation are both important in predicting funding in areas of emerging technology. Moreover, the findings imply that the emergence of new technology may offer opportunities for women in low representation fields.

Melkers, Julia and Yonghong Wu (2009) “Evaluating the Improved Research Capacity of EPSCoR States: R&D Funding and Collaborative Networks in the NSF EPSCoR Program.” Forthcoming 2009, Review of Policy Research.

States vary considerably in their ability to attract federal R&D sources. The NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program was created in the late 1970’s and was designed to enhance the research capacity of less competitive states in seeking federal research funds. How has EPSCoR improved research capacity in its member states? To date, little evaluation of EPSCoR as a program, or even within individual states has occurred, and those studies that have been conducted have taken a state-wide macro-level approach. We argue that a social-capital-based approach that addresses capacity development among EPSCoR program recipients provides important scientist-level data that can best address capacity development issues. In this paper we first examine the data of federal academic R&D obligations from the Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions in order to analyze one of the direct outcomes of capacity building. We conduct a descriptive statistical analysis on the changing share of federal academic R&D obligations for individual states in recent years. Second, using an NSF-sponsored survey of scientists in the fifty states, we present data on distinctions between scientists in EPSCoR versus non-EPSCoR states, as well as differences between scientists who have been involved in EPSCoR versus those who have not. From our analysis we find important evidence of capacity development in EPSCoR states. Perhaps most importantly, our results provide an important first step in identifying relevant evaluative issues for EPSCoR.

Haller, M. K. (2008) “Rethinking Collaborative Entrepreneurship: The Impact of Networks and Cognitions on Research Opportunities”. PhD Dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2008.

This dissertation studies the extent to which certain cognitive processes mediate the influence of social structure in determining entrepreneurial behavior by academic scientists. A network-cognitive model of collaborative entrepreneurship is proposed that conceptualizes social structure as the individual’s network of advice and collaborative relationships. Cognitions are modeled as the cognitive biases of illusion of control, representativeness, and overconfidence. The form of entrepreneurial behavior studied is the pursuit and acquisition of external grant funding. Findings reveal that the some aspects of social structure may influence entrepreneurial behavior because they change the level of individual’s cognitive bias. Specifically, the influence of the number of advisors, level of trust in advice relationships and the number of grant writing collaborators on entrepreneurial behavior were mediated by illusion of control, representativeness, and overconfidence bias. These mediated effects were found to decrease the number of grant proposals submitted and to increase the percentage of these grant submissions that received funding awards.