Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

The Development of Social Capital in the Collaboration Network of Information Systems Scholars

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

The Development of Social Capital in the Collaboration Network of Information Systems Scholars

Article excerpt


This study examines the development of social capital in the collaboration network of information systems (IS) scholars over a 33-year period (from 1980 to 2012). Using the co-authorship data from six premier journals (MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Journal of MIS, Journal of the AIS, European Journal of Information Systems, and Information Systems Journal), we analyze the historical trajectory of five aspects of the field's structural social capital: network ties, network configuration, structural holes, growth, and structural cohesion. Our results show that, as a scientific field, the IS community has made significant progress in accumulating social capital. The current IS collaboration network is also comparable in several aspects with networks found in other business disciplines (e.g., management, finance, and marketing). Our study has several important implications for the focus-versus-diversity debate in the IS field. Based on our findings, we offer some recommendations as to how the IS community can increase the field's social capital, and thereby facilitate knowledge creation and innovation.

Keywords: IS Field, IS Discipline, Social Capital, Collaboration Network, Co-Authorship Analysis.

1. Introduction

Creating knowledge is one of the key roles scientific fields play (Crane, 1972; Whitley, 1975, 1984). In a field, scholars engage in scientific practices and produce new knowledge in the form of theories, methodologies, techniques, and artifacts pertaining to a specific set of subjects. Their effort contributes to the intellectual development of their field and the growth of the body of knowledge (Crane, 1972). Since its beginnings in the late 1960s, the information systems (IS) field has undergone recurrent assessment and self-assessment of its intellectual development that has aimed to clarify its identity as a scientific field (Banville & Landry, 1989; Benbasat & Zmud, 2003; Farhoomand, 1987; Robey, 2003; Vessey, Ramesh, & Glass, 2002). Along this line of concern, Banville and Landry (1989) called the IS field a "fragmented adhocracy" and heated up the debate about its identity. A long-lasting point in this debate has been one concerning the focus or diversity in IS research (Benbasat & Weber, 1996; Robey, 1996; Taylor, Dillon, & van Wingen, 2010; Vessey et al., 2002). Benbasat and Zmud (2003), for example, advocate focus and call for the articulation of the intellectual core through studying "the IT artifact and its immediate nomological net" (p. 186). Other scholars, in contrast, believe that the diversity of research topics and approaches is the IS field's defining feature that strengthens rather than weakens it (Galliers, 2003; Ives, Parks, Porra, & Silva, 2004; Lyytinen & King, 2004; Robey, 2003).

In response to this debate, several recent empirical studies have reexamined the IS field's intellectual development. Sidorova, Evangelopoulos, Valacich, and Ramakrishnan (2008) analyze the abstracts of research papers published in three top IS journals and identify five core areas in IS research (IT and organizations, IS development, IT and individuals, IT and markets, and IT and groups). They note substantial focus at the research area level, and observe great diversity at the research theme and topic level. Taylor et al. (2010) employ a longitudinal, author co-citation analysis and show that the IS field has shifted from a fragmented adhocracy to a polycentric state with a higher level of mutual dependence1 among IS scholars.

Although these studies demonstrate to a certain degree the IS field's "cognitive legitimacy" (Benbasat & Zmud, 2003), they overlook the social aspect of scientific practice and the knowledge-production process (DeSanctis, 2003, p. 363), which Whitley (1984) and Banville and Landry (1989) explicitly emphasize. Crane (1972) points out that the process of conducting research is inherently social. In a scholarly community, members interact with each other, share common research interests, use similar methods and techniques, pick up each other's ideas, and influence each other's work (Culnan, 1986, 1987; Moody, 2004). …

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