Catching up with big fish in the big pond? Multi-level network analysis through linked design

Abstract : This article contributes to the study of “duality” [Breiger, R., 1974. The duality of persons and groups. Social Forces 53, 181–190] in social life. Our study explores multi-level networks of superposed and partially connected interdependencies, the first being inter-organizational, the second inter-individual. We propose a method of structural linked design as an articulation for these levels. First, we examine separately the complete networks at each level. Second, we combine the two networks in relation to one another using systematic information about the membership of each individual in the first network (inter-individual) to one of the organizations in the second network (inter-organizational), as in bipartite networks. This dual positioning, or the linked design approach, is carried out in an empirical study examining performance variations within the “elite” of French cancer researchers in 1999. By looking at measures of centrality, we identify the actors that these top researchers consider as central or peripheral at the inter-individual level (the big and the little fish among the elite), and the laboratories that the research directors consider as central or peripheral at the inter-organizational level (the big and the little ponds among all the laboratories conducting cancer research in France at that time). In addition to the rather trivial report of the competitive advantage of big fish in big ponds (particularly because of the advantage of size for laboratories in this field), we use measurements of scientific performance to identify “catching up” strategies that the smallest fish use in this system. We suggest that this method offers new insights into the duality and multi-level dimension of complex systems of interdependencies, and also into the ways in which actors manage these interdependencies. We believe that it adds a new dimension to the sociological exploration of the determinants of performance, of meso-level phenomena such as opportunity structures and institutional change, or of macro-level phenomena such as social inequalities.
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Emmanuel Lazega, Marie-Thérèse Jourda, Lise Mounier, Rafaël Stofer. Catching up with big fish in the big pond? Multi-level network analysis through linked design. Social Networks, 2008, 30 (2), pp.159 - 176. ⟨hal-01800234⟩

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