Centers and institutes are created to support interdisciplinary collaboration. However, all centers and institutes face the challenge of how best to evaluate their impact since traditional counts of productivity may not fully capture the interdisciplinary nature of this work. The authors applied techniques from social network analysis (SNA) to evaluate the impact of a center for interprofessional education (IPE), a growing area for centers because of the global emphasis on IPE.
The authors created networks based on the connections between faculty involved in programs supported by an IPE center at Virginia Commonwealth University from 2014 to 2017. They used mathematical techniques to describe these networks and the change in the networks over time. The results of these analyses demonstrated that, while the number of programs and involved faculty grew, the faculty maintained a similar amount of connection between members. Additional faculty clusters emerged, and certain key faculty were important connectors between clusters. The analysis also confirmed the interprofessional nature of faculty collaboration within the network.
SNA added important evaluation data beyond typical metrics such as counts of learners or faculty. This approach demonstrated how a center was evolving and what strategies might be needed to support further growth. With further development of benchmarks, SNA could be used to evaluate the effectiveness of centers and institutes relative to each other. SNA should guide strategic decisions about the future of centers and institutes as they strive to meet their overarching goal of tackling a social challenge through interdisciplinary collaboration.