Mobility, networks and knowledge flows: towards a more comprehensive methodological framework
Dinamia/Iscte Dinamia/Iscte Lisboa, Portugal
In developed countries the management of academic careers is strongly and increasingly related to mobility which allows coming into contact with new knowledge and different ways of doing and evaluating in the scientific activity. European policies, namely through the creation of the European Research Area, emphasize this demand for mobility, seen by the researchers as an essential part of their professional trajectory and vital to the construction of their human and social capital.
The mobility trajectories of scientists originate periods of co-location, decisive in the formation and strengthening of trust bonds and social and epistemic proximity relations, which facilitate the creation and transfer of shared knowledge between individuals even after they are geographically separated.
The role of scientific mobility and of the social networks deriving from it in the circulation of knowledge is not yet fully understood. The measurement of knowledge flows and the role of social networks in that process have been approached mainly through CV analysis and bibliometric methods. These methods have strong limitations since many knowledge flows don't originate co-publications or co-authorships being thus much more elusive and difficult to analyse.
The aim of this paper will be to put forward for discussion a theoretical and methodological framework, which includes Social Network Analysis instruments, that can arguably allow a more comprehensive understanding of the relation between the mobility of scientists, the construction of their human and social capital and the circulation of knowledge between scientists and as a consequence between national systems of science and innovation. This model, which has been developed in the course of an ongoing Phd thesis and which will be applied to the Portuguese case, articulates diversified instruments such as the mapping of individual mobility trajectories through secondary data, CVs' analysis, the application of questionnaires and in-depth interviews with selected scientists.
The data obtained will be partially analysed through specific Social Network Analysis software. We contend that these methods can be extremely useful in the study of knowledge circulation processes specially when articulated with other "more traditional" approaches in sociological studies.