Social Connection and Knowledge Brokerage in a State Government Research Network in Australia


  • C. Louise Goggin
  • Rebecca Cunningham



Social Network Analysis, knowledge exchange, social connection, evaluation, environmental management, alpine


The social dimensions of knowledge management are often overlooked when attempting to develop innovative approaches to preserve and balance the multiple values of protected natural landscapes. This oversight can hinder the incorporation of knowledge from research and experience, particularly tacit knowledge held by experts and experienced individuals. Building social connection between leaders, researchers and experienced staff within an organisation can address this challenge because it fosters knowledge incorporation and dissemination. However, this can be a slower, more costly and more challenging method of incorporating diverse knowledges. Organisations, particularly government organisations, need to demonstrate the value of building social connection and cohesion. Our work was designed to evaluate social connection and the development of deliberative knowledge networks. We tracked social connection during the formation of a research network within a state government organisation in Australia. The aim of the network was to improve the adoption of research knowledge into management of the alpine region in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Social Network Analysis (SNA) was used to evaluate the effectiveness of forming a research network, given it was a costly, time-consuming and challenging method for the organisation. SNA was used to visualise social connections and measure changes during the planning phase of the research network over 12 months, when scope of the alpine research program was being identified and priorities determined. The analysis revealed individuals in the network grew social connections over time (total ties, average degree and density increased) which is likely to lead to better knowledge sharing. The SNA also identified individuals with knowledge brokerage roles (betweenness scores) and those with the greatest reach and potential influence in the network (key players) who were targeted for future roles in the network. The majority of alpine information was sought from and shared with staff within the network, particularly those in two Groups/ Divisions, which may limit the innovation by the network. The results provided insight to the government research network that is invaluable in its transition from the planning phase to implementation of research priorities and adaptive management. Our approach provides evidence for the value of building social connections and knowledge brokerage to improve environmental outcomes.



20 May 2021



General Paper