CEC Theses and Dissertations


A Study of Social Organization in Science in the Age of Computer-Mediated-Communication

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Laurie Dringus

Committee Member

Marlyn Kemper Littman

Committee Member

Steven R. Terrell


The study investigated whether the social organization based on informal communication of scientific research groups has changed with the use of computer mediated- communication. A population of 101 investigators of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) currently working in the United States was identified. Scientists were asked on a survey questionnaire to name the persons they contact three or more times per year concerning their work. In addition, investigators of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness were asked whether they use computer-mediated-communication to discuss their work with their colleagues and, if so, which media of CMC they use.

The following media were considered: electronic mail, electronic mailing lists, electronic bulletin boards and real-time chat facilities. Forty-nine per cent of the scientists responded to the survey representing forty-nine per cent of the estimated population of investigators of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness.

Using social network analysis methods, the study identified the social organization based on informal communication of the research group. The social structure consisted of a network of 47 connected scientists, 5 disconnected subgroups and 39 isolates. The social organization also contained an invisible college of six scientists whose members scored significantly higher on measures informal communication and intellectual influence. Seventy-nine per cent of the respondents use computer mediated- communication for informal communication. In addition, computer mediated- communication increased the number of scientists, particularly peripheral scientists, who participate in informal discussions.

The study concluded that the social organization of investigators of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness has not changed. As in earlier investigations (Blau, 1978; Crane, 1972; Crawford, 1970; Weedman, 1993; Zaltman, 1974) an invisible college was identified however, the study also concluded that the invisible college shares its role in the dissemination of informal communication with conversations on the electronic networks. Future study of international scientific research groups, emerging computer communication technologies and the content of informal communication relations was recommended.

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