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New Science of Networks and RN Life Cycle

A new science of networks is online with multidisciplinary and innovative agendas under constant construction, ever upgrading. This new science is also known as team science, social construction of knowledge, or web collaborative intelligence. Metaphors such as sponge-like are employed to characterize the flexible structure of a network because it squeezes useful material at the right moment. Communicating vases, also, describe partners’ relationships, people connected with interaction and negotiation processes (Gunawardena et al., 1997).

From a first look on the literature of this new science, it is possible to see members’ communication taking people, the researchers, as members of a CRN, considering the nature of members’ knowledge, members’ activities, members’ cognitions, members’ meta-cognitions, and also members’ emotions and behaviors. Relationships among researchers, networks members, are based on main aspects, such as trust and power. Notice that CRN is a trust-building process that consumes time and results from work relations among sometimes unequal partners (Newell and Swan, 2000; Tansley and Newell, 2007; Zingerli, 2010).

Aside, we can look at the sociocultural context. Some aspects such as purpose, collaboration, inquiry, leadership, accountability, and capacity must be considered for each background. It is known that RNs differ according to the characteristics of members’ disciplinary fields. As we understand it, the number of authors per paper varies among disciplines. For example, biology or health science papers are written by a larger number of authors than mathematics papers, reflecting the differences in the way research is done; biology research papers are done by large groups; mathematics and philosophy research is done alone or by pairs of collaborators; in physics, currently, some papers have more than 3000 authors. In our last work, for example, we look at the scientists belonging to three different disciplinary fields, Physics, Engineering, and Education, hard and soft sciences. The scientists in these fields act in different contextual spheres of knowledge research but their coauthorship networks can be visualized and measured through the same methods in the same way (Adams, 2012,2013; Cornelissen et al., 2011; Grossman, 2002; Leite et al., 2014b; Newman, 2004).

RNs’ life cycle emerges when we join time dimension observing structural rearranges in RN. Bettencourt and colleagues (2009) analyzed the advent and development of eight scientific fields, mapping the evolution of their networks over time based on coauthorship of scientific papers. Starting from ideas of the literature on the history and sociology of science, the changes were quantitatively characterized. Normally, there is an initial period (discovery) with a small number of researchers. Next, an explanatory or practical potential of the idea becomes clear (invention) and is the beginning of large-scale adoption of a new theoretical framework or technological design (paradigm), which can be visualized in a large RN. In general, a network starts from a small group, develops institutional or international partnership, and, then, an increase of productivity around institutions is verified. Life cycle is an important variable to collaboration and to RN evaluation.

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