Understanding Researchers Collaboration in eParticipation using Social Network Analysis

Understanding Researchers Collaboration in eParticipation using Social Network Analysis

Eleni Kaliva (University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece), Dimitrios Katsioulas (University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece), Efthimios Tambouris (University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece) and Konstantinos Tarabanis (University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/IJEGR.2015100103
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Over the past years electronic participation (eParticipation) became a political priority worldwide. Consequently, research on the field has dramatically grown. However, eParticipation is still an unconsolidated research area that lacks generally agreed upon definitions, research disciplines, methods and boundaries. The aim of this paper is to contribute to the establishment of the eParticipation identity by investigating the scientific collaborations in the domain. The study of the nature of academic collaboration reveals the structure and the intellectual roots of the research community and the most influential authors. The approach followed in this paper includes the construction of the co-authorship network and the calculation of the social network analysis (SNA) metrics that describe the nature of the collaboration. The results revealed that eParticipation is a rather active academic field in the last decade including a high degree of collaboration and a core network of very influential researchers.
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1. Introduction

Electronic Participation (eParticipation) is a relatively new field that “describes efforts to broaden and deepen political participation by enabling citizens to connect with one another and with their elected representatives” (Macintosh, 2004). Over the past years eParticipation has become a political priority worldwide, as it is considered a powerful tool for enhancing democracy and citizen participation and assuring openness and transparency. In particular, the European Digital Agenda refers to citizen empowerment as one of its key pillars. Similarly other initiatives worldwide consider eParticipation as an essential ingredient of eGovernment policies (UN, 2012).

As a result, over the last few years, research on eParticipation has dramatically grown, from the sporadic appearances of the eParticipation term in various research papers to an established research field with a number of specialized conferences and journals (Erman & Todorovski 2009b, Medaglia, 2012).

However, eParticipation is still an unconsolidated research field that still lacks a generally agreed upon definition, a clear overview of the research disciplines or methods it draws upon and agreed research boundaries (Saebo et al. 2008).A variety of recent studies addresses this concern by attempting an in-depth investigation of the eParticipation field, e.g. Sanford and Rose (2007), Tambouris et al. (2007), Medaglia (2007), Saebo et al. (2008), Freschi et al. (2009), Macintosh et al. (2009), Ergazakis et al. (2011), Medaglia (2011), Susha and Grönlund (2012). All these approaches focused on surveying the field and identifying its main research areas, proposing frameworks, revealing research constrains and proposing trends.

This work aims to contribute to the process of establishing the eParticipation identity by investigating researchers’ collaboration in the field; to the best of our knowledge there is currently no relevant study in the literature. Communication and collaboration between scientists is a significant aspect of each scientific community. Past studies have shown that research collaboration produces higher research impact than a single researcher in terms of number of publications and citations (Li et al. 2015). Therefore, the analysis of eParticipation’s research collaboration will provide greater insight regarding the structure (Cerveny and Behara, 2011) and the intellectual roots and development of the field (Culnan, 1987). Furthermore, it will serve as an empirical basis for socializing the newest members in the field by transmitting professional norms for scholarships (Culnan, 1987).

The analysis of research communities is usually conducted using citation or co-authorship networks. The nodes of such a network represent authors while the edges represent co-authorships between authors. In order to construct the eParticipation network we identified and refined relevant literature, resolved authors’ names disambiguation, and recorded the authors and the co-authorships pairs. Next, we analysed the network using Social Network Analysis (SNA). In particular, we calculated SNA metrics that describe the nature of the eParticipation network. Following this approach, we identified the various research groups in the field, the most influential authors, the development of the field over time as well as the geographic areas where the most intense authoring activity took place.

The rest of this paper is organized as follows. Section 2 presents some background information on eParticipation, researchers’ collaboration, SNA and co-authorship analysis while Section 3 outlines the methodology used. Section 4 presents the analysis results. Finally, Section 5 presents the main conclusions and future work.

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