Characterizing a scientific collaboration by its communication structure 

Adrian Wüthrich (Technische Universität Berlin) 

On many accounts, the major experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the laboratory for particle physics, are paradigm examples of innovative scientific collaborations. Closer inspection of these “epistemic cultures” (Karin Knorr-Cetina) have identified the almost constant self-reflection as a distinctive feature of these collaborations. Taking my cue from such studies, I investigate the communication structure in which a large portion of this self-reflection may happen. In this contribution, I will present first results of my analysis of a collection of about 24.000 email messages from internal mailinglists of the ATLAS collaboration during the years 2010–2013. The main part of the analysis consists of constructing a network in which the members of the collaboration are connected if they reply to each otherʼs messages. The network provides a means of identifying important members of the collaboration according to various centrality measures and to detect “communities” inside the collaboration. Moreover, by measuring the global characteristics of the network, such as its density, clustering coefficient and degree distribution, I will attempt to bring to bear recent theoretical results in “network epistemology” (Kevin Zollman) on this important real world case.