#KeyLIMEPodcast 260: Got Impact? Get SNA-zzy!

The author’s of Jason’s chosen article  set out to find if social network analysis (SNA) was an effective method to measure the scholarly impact of an academic institute for interprofessional education (IPE). 

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KeyLIME Session 260

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Dow et. al., Evaluating a Center for Interprofessional Education via Social Network Analysis Acad Med. 2020


Jason R. Frank (@drjfrank)


When it comes to academic recognition, reward, and respect, many a clinician-educator has felt like a veritable ugly duckling: looking on longingly while bench scientists and clinical epidemiologists get accolades and big grants to match their many publications and BMWs.

Our higher education heritage via Abraham Flexner measures societal impact in terms of research publications and grants. But are there other ways to measure scholarly impact?


Enter Dow et al from Virginia Commonwealth University, who set out to find an alternative method of measuring the impact of an academic institute for interprofessional education (IPE). The authors used social network analysis (SNA) to characterize the networks facilitated by the IPE institute as a novel measure of impact.

Key Points on the Methods

The IPE institute began activities in 2009. The study focused on the links between faculty who taught, designed, and participated in the IPE programs of the institute between 2014-2017. (Learners were too transient to include in this study.) They applied SNA to the faculty network: each faculty was defined as a node, and links between faculty were defined as shared teaching activities.

  • Change in faculty connections were calculated with SNA techniques:
  • Network density (measure of connectedness)
  • Average distance between faculty (measure of connectedness)
  • Average degree (measure of how connected each faculty member is)
  • Betweenness centralization (measure of influence by a few)
  • Modularity (measure of subgroups)
  • Assortativity (measure of similar members clustered together)

These were analyzed using R.

Key Outcomes

Programs and faculty participation doubled, as did the number of faculty connections. The IPE SNA showed network density evolving over time, with slightly decreased density, stable nonrandom clustering of subgroups, and signal that faculty connections are truly interprofessional.

Key Conclusions

The authors conclude that SNA is a novel and effective technique suitable for measuring scholarly impact beyond publications and grants. It characterizes connections across collaborating faculty and highlights key leaders who facilitate those collaborations.

Spare Keys – other take home points for clinician educators

  1. Scholarly impact is > publications and grants. Let’s not forget.
  2. Social network analysis a cool technique to bring into #meded studies.

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