Social network analysis as a method of assessing institutional culture: three case studies

Acad Med. 2009 Aug;84(8):1029-35. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181ad16d3.


Purpose: To describe the basic concepts of social network analysis (SNA), which assesses the unique structure of interrelationships among individuals and programs, and introduce some applications of this technique in assessing aspects of institutional culture at a medical center.

Method: The authors applied SNA to three settings at their institution: team function in the intensive care unit, interdisciplinary composition of advisory committees for 53 federal career development awardees, and relationships between key function directors at an institution-wide Clinical Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI). (Key functions are the major administrative units of the CTSI.)

Results: In the ICU setting, SNA provides interpretable summaries of aspects of clinical team functioning. When applied to membership on mentorship committees, it allows for summary descriptions of the degree of interdisciplinarity of various clinical departments. Finally, when applied to relationships among leaders of an institution-wide research enterprise, it highlights potential problem areas in relationships among academic departments. In all cases, data collection is relatively rapid and simple, thereby allowing for the possibility of frequent repeated analyses over time.

Conclusions: SNA provides a useful and standardized set of tools for measuring important aspects of team function, interdisciplinarity, and organizational culture that may otherwise be difficult to measure in an objective way.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / organization & administration*
  • Administrative Personnel
  • Advisory Committees
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Mentors
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration
  • Social Support*