Evaluating Collaborations in Comparative Effectiveness Research: Opportunities and Challenges for Social Network Analysis

Publisher: Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research, vol. 3, no. 6
Dec 30, 2014
Joseph S. Zickafoose, Laura D. Kimmey, Amber Tomas, Dominick Esposito, and Eugene Rich

Key Findings:

  • Social network analysis (SNA) has a potentially important application in measuring the development and effects of multidisciplinary, multi-institutional collaborations in comparative effectiveness research (CER).
  • To utilize SNA to describe and evaluate CER collaborations, investigators need to develop conceptual frameworks for how collaboration might influence the success of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act CER portfolio.
  • SNA is most useful in describing the characteristics of CER collaborations but could also be used to assess the associations between characteristics of collaborations and outcomes of CER projects, such as incorporation of results into clinical guidelines.
  • Methodological considerations in applying SNA to assess CER collaborations include choice of primary or secondary data sources, meaningful network metrics, and research designs. 

Multidisciplinary, multi-institutional collaboration has become a key feature of comparative effectiveness research (CER), and CER funders have made promotion of these types of collaboration an implicit, and sometimes explicit, goal of funding. An important challenge in evaluating CER programs is understanding if and how different forms of collaboration are associated with successful CER projects. This article explores the potential use of social network analysis to address research questions about the associations between collaboration and the success of CER projects.