Research at HSE: the Power of Collaboration

The HSE Look has begun a series of articles on research life at HSE. The new issue that came out today focuses on cooperative efforts in research and gives several detailed examples of joint work at our university. We will start with the International Laboratory for Applied Network Research who share their experience of starting up a research unit and successfully collaborating with colleagues and students.
The International Laboratory for Applied Network Research was established at HSE in summer 2014 and is characterized by a common methodology rather than research topic. Network research analysis is applied to data from a wide range of thematic fields, ranging from networks in business to students’ social connections. The Lab Director, Valentina Kuskova, kindly agreed to reflect on the laboratory’s activities and we are excited to publish these thoughts. Kuskova’s closest colleagues, Stanley Wasserman (Academic Supervisor of the lab) and Olga Mayorova (Senior Research Fellow of the lab’s team at the HSE Perm campus) join in and share their experiences of an effective laboratory launch and making good use of the institutional opportunities at HSE.

International laboratory for Applied Network Research

The Laboratory: How to Make It Work

An important consideration in opening a new laboratory is creating the structure. The scientific advisor, Stanley Wasserman, has a lot of experience in creating and running research groups, so his expertise was almost taken for granted. Looking back, that was probably the most important factor that allowed us to take off quickly and in the right direction – the number of papers previously published, citation indices, research fit, and so on all paled in comparison.

Stanley Wasserman: “I’m glad to have the opportunity to bring my ideas and methods to bear in the new laboratory. There are lots of resources at HSE to help our lab succeed. I was amazed to discover how much support we actually had access to.”

So, what we do in the lab is hold weekly seminars. Most of them are educational because we have a very young team (over half of our researchers are students). We read books, discuss projects, talk about software and so on. We always welcome guest speakers and offer seminars that involve such presentations in advance.

Collaboration: Campuses and Other Research Groups

The ANR Lab has several “hubs” across HSE campuses: Moscow, St. Petersburg and Perm. The idea of uniting HSE researchers interested in social network analysis under the umbrella of one international lab to strengthen it with our diverse training, research experience and fields of study was there from the start. We meet either in the rooms of HSE or network at conferences and it seemed only natural to team up in taking on such a challenging endeavor.

Olga Mayorova: “It was important for us from the beginning that our laboratory would act as a basis not only for international collaboration but also for inter-campus partnership. This is why we have planned events that allow us to meet for consultations and the training of our junior staff regularly. The only real challenge is that we can’t get together in person as often as we would like to. Modern technology makes frequent communication across campuses fairly easy, but nothing can really substitute for a live comment that someone might make during a seminar.”

We have also developed a “network structure” for our projects – an idea that was also there from the beginning and involves collaborating with researchers from other labs at HSE. We have several joint projects that are progressing quite well with the research and study group Network Methods and Models in Text Mining led by Galina Gradoselskaya and with the Research and Study Laboratory on Business Communications, whose deputy head is Maria Pilgun.

Conferences: Success and Good Advice

In November 2014 we held our first International Conference on Social Network Analysis at HSE. Given the tight deadlines we’d been working under (at that time, the lab had only been functioning for just over four months) the conference was a great success, bringing together over 120 people from 11 different countries. Only about half of the participants were from HSE. It was an exciting event, with lots of good discussions and ideas throughout. The ultimate sign of success for us was the conclusion of the conference. At the end of the last session, when the halls of the building were already empty, the conference room was still packed full and participants were in no hurry to leave. They stayed behind and continued their discussions. Several people have joined our lab as a result of the conference, and several other people have decided to work with us on projects, while not joining the laboratory as members.

If you want to organize a conference but have never done so before, remember that HSE has good resources in place to make these events a great success. Deputy Vice Rector Marina Litvintseva leads an administrative group whose primary purpose is to support international laboratories, but they are also in charge of all organized events, such as conferences, and have plenty of good advice to dispense. So, there is no need to re-invent the wheel.

Students and Research

The most important aspect of an international laboratory is the development of its young talent. It’s rare that a high school student enters the university with the dream of becoming a scientist, in social sciences especially. The buzz of excitement that the research process brings is something that could happen accidentally (but unfortunately does not happen often enough), or something that students could get introduced to systematically. Those that find the process of figuring things out exciting are often here to stay. So summer schools, conferences, corridor talks - anything that can get students to pay attention to what kinds of research is being carried out is very important. When students get introduced to research as undergrads, they get a real headstart in terms of getting their research careers on the right track.

Summer Schools

I think HSE does a good job of organizing summer schools. There are many, they are successful and there is a good set of best practices that have been developed over many years. We have certainly relied on the expertise of the HSE international laboratory administrative group.

In 2014 the lab held two summer schools, “Theory and Methods of Network Analysis” in Moscow and “Social Network Analysis Methods and Applications” in St. Petersburg. The latter was carried out in cooperation with the Sociology of Education and Science Laboratory. We share a number of joint interests and worked on several projects together in 2014. The two summer schools were announced jointly, but held separately. As far as funding goes, our “sister” laboratory used the HSE support funds for summer schools while we have used our own laboratory funds.

Several projects that were started by students during our summer schools are still in the process of development, and some of them were presented at the conference that we held in November. We find this to be very exciting, and a sign that the school has fulfilled its purpose. If, as a researcher, you are looking to join a summer school as an advanced participant, then just reach out to organizers when the school is announced. We would most certainly welcome outside expertise at any time!

The full text of the issue can be found in 
The HSE LooK 2 (19), Feb. 2015. If you are not on our regular mailing list yet, please subscribe and get fresh issues of our bulletin every month!

Stanley Wasserman is Rudy Professor of Statistics, Psychology and Sociology at Indiana University, USA and Chief Scientist at the Visible Path Corporation, NY. He received his PhD in Statistics at Harvard University and his research interests are Mathematical Psychology and Sociology, Applied Statistics, and Social Networks. Wasserman is a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and an honorary fellow of the American Statistical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is one of the founders and editors of the Network Science journal published by Cambridge University Press, a co-author of the book Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications (1994, with Faust K.), and a co-editor of the book Advances in Social Network Analysis: Research from the Social and Behavioral Sciences (with Galaskiewicz, J.), which greatly shaped the field of network analysis methods.

Valentina Kuskova is an Assistant Professor at the HSE Faculty of Management and Deputy First Vice Rector on issues relating to international faculty recruitment. She received her PhD in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at Indiana University, USA. Her research interests are job and life satisfaction and its relationship with performance; in-role (task performance) and extra-role behavior (organizational citizenship behaviors and counterproductive work behaviors); leadership behaviors and organizational fairness; methodological issues and research design.

Olga Mayorova is an Associate Professor at the School of Management at the HSE Perm. She received her PhD in Sociology from University of Arizona, USA. During her work in the USA, Mayorova studied the social networks of the American corporate elite, social stratification in Russia, the integration of Georgian refugees and the participation of state and private companies in the market of education services and entertainment for children in the USA. While working as a senior research fellow at the American Sociological Association, she carried out evaluative research of educational programmes. Her main research interests are network analysis, social stratification and organizational theory.