Collaboration within the Puget Sound marine and nearshore science network

A study published in the journal Coastal Management generates a broad description of the collaborative network among marine and nearshore researchers in Puget Sound and identifies incentives and barriers to collaboration.

Coastal Management journal cover
Coastal Management journal cover

Extended abstract

The Puget Sound Partnership’s 2012 Biennial Science Work Plan outlined strategies to identify and support scientific research critical to achieving Puget Sound ecosystem recovery. Among these strategic actions, the Partnership was interested in 1) mapping the existing networks of scientists working on Puget Sound issues, and 2) building capacity for improved coordination between scientific disciplines and distinct actors within Puget Sound, including federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and Native tribes.

The primary goal of this study was to generate a broad description of the collaborative network among marine and nearshore researchers, and to identify incentives and barriers to collaboration present in the context of Puget Sound. In the field of natural resource management, there is increasing recognition of the importance of collaborative, interdisciplinary research, which has been found to generate more complete, balanced, and useful results. In addition to collaboration within the scientific community, collaboration between researchers, managers, and policymakers can increase the policy impact of scientific findings. 

In addition to providing a general description of this network of practitioners, the article explores the utility of social network analysis as an applied tool to enhance strategic management. Various network structures play important roles in the facilitation of information flow and collaborative ties within a network. Among these key structures, cohesive sub-groups are theorized to facilitate information flow and trust relationships. Actors that bridge between disconnected sub-groups or who connect a large number of other actors (high “betweenness”) may broker the exchange of new ideas, information, and perspectives. Actors with a high number of connections (high “degree”) may have the potential to act as opinion leaders.

“Network interventions” can be used to make strategic alterations to improve the quantity and quality of relationships in a network, to achieve desired network function. Such interventions have been utilized in fields such as public health, counterterrorism, business, and natural resource management. Examples of interventions in collaborative networks include efforts to increase linkages between individuals with differing skill sets or to foster new collaborations between diverse stakeholders and managers.

The article concludes by offering policy recommendations and suggested next steps in Puget Sound social network research and application of findings. Policy recommendations are based on comparing qualitative results to a framework of “assurance mechanisms” that lead to successful collaborations in an environmental and political setting (Weber 1998). These recommendations, along with key findings from network analysis, are intended to serve the Puget Sound Partnership in determining next steps in the development and application of network analysis tools to enhance the existing collaborative network and strategic coordination of research.


Hoelting, K., Moore, B., Pollnac, R., & Christie, P. (2014). Collaboration within the Puget Sound Marine and Nearshore Science Network. Coastal Management, 42 (4), 332-354.