The ties that bind Iowa STEM

Each node of this social network schematic is an Iowan connected to the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council.

Who across Iowa makes up the fabric of our STEM network? That question is one of the factors being examined by Iowa’s assessment consortium working under the National Science Foundation-funded Iowa STEM Education Evaluation (I-SEE) grant. The answer will strengthen ties across Iowa and help inform other states seeking to replicate the STEM Council’s model.

The process is called Social Network Analysis (SNA), which measures and maps relationships and flow of information between individuals, groups and organizations. Iowa’s SNA will identify partner connections, leaders, bridges and clusters in the network, visually and statistically. So far, the SNA data reveals that partners in Iowa’s STEM network average 31 connections, with two degrees of separation on average—a very tight network. Moreover, Iowa’s STEM network is nearly clique-free, whereas most networks of this size are hobbled by cliques that inhibit information flow.

Next for Iowa’s SNA analysis is to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) strategies for deeper, more specific questions regarding the growth, limits and key players in the STEM network and how information is transmitted across the network. Uses of the data include identifying individuals for new leadership positions, connecting people across STEM professions, identifying key STEM people by region and profiling engagement by sector—educators, business leaders, non-profits or government.

The full preliminary SNA will appear in the annual Iowa STEM Monitoring Report due out in early August. For more information, send your contacts and curiosities to the SNA project leader for STEM, Andres Lazaro Lopez, Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology at Iowa State University and research assistant for Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) at alopez@iastate.edu.  

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