Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions
One research stream, generously funded by the EU Commission's Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions fellowship (2016-2018), explores how various forms of temporary colocation, such as physical conferences, virtual conferences and virtual interactions through social media, can affect innovative collaboration, productivity, and diffusion. A practitioner summary of the research can be found on the ESSEC Knowledge website.
The first paper in this research stream, titled “Temporary Colocation and Collaborative Discovery: Who Confers at Conferences”, focuses on the premise that the flow of knowledge is closely linked to proximity. Most analyses of the effect of spatial proximity on knowledge study people or organizations that are permanently colocated. In contrast, tie formation that leads to knowledge flow and collaboration at events where individuals colocate temporarily remains understudied. The work examines how being temporarily proximate at a prestigious conference affects tie formation and attendees’ future research trajectory as compared to that of observationally similar non-attendees, while instrumenting attendance using the distance travelled to the conference. We find that conference attendees are more likely to be cited by and collaborate with a fellow attendee, especially for those without prior citation and collaboration ties. We also find that certain individuals draw more benefits from temporary colocation than others do.
An interesting extension to this work is to explore the same research question above but in the context of virtual proximity. I do so in the paper titled "Virtual or Physical Colocation: Productivity, Collaboration & Diffusion". Virtual meetings have been proposed as an alternative to decrease the cost of physical conferences especially with the increased penetration of the Internet. Although they bring participants together and attempt to create a virtual sense of spatial proximity, they lack the direct connections to other attendees afforded by physical conferences. Thus, investigating this question is interesting empirically as the effect between attending physical and virtual conferences on subsequent productivity, collaboration behavior and diffusion can be compared, but also theoretically as it brings another dimension of proximity – virtual proximity.
Another instantiation of virtual proximity can also be found and measured through social media, such as Twitter, presence and interactions. Hence, as future research I investigate (with Anil Doshi, UCL), how the usage of Twitter by business academics may affect their productivity and the recognition of their work.