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Investigating Institutional Integration and Innovation in NSF's I-cubed Activity


This research project focuses on how awardees in NSF’s Innovation through Institution Integration activity (“I³”) operationalize the meaning of “institutional integration” and “innovation” and seeks to quantify the nature and evolution of these campus-wide collaborative networks. The project examines the extent to which changes occur in activities (planning, budgeting, scheduling, evaluating), organizational/social identity (identification with a single NSF program/and or group of people working on a grant as opposed to identification with NSF efforts more broadly and the people engaged in the work), and mental models or schema (shared cognition about the nature of the problem, what needs to be addressed, and appropriate strategies for addressing them). This work is also looking at the extent to which the selection of particular themes identified in the I³ solicitation and around which projects must build integration - broadening participation, critical educational junctures, globally engaged workforce, integration of research and education, and research and evaluation - appear to affect project outcomes and success.

Methodologically, the project employs two complementary approaches, Social Network Analysis (SNA) and case studies, to examine institutional integration of NSF programs. SNA, a methodology that has only recently been applied to educational issues, provides a new way to study the interactions among individuals from disparate NSF programs within an I³ institution. The research project studies networks as they are implicit in a wide range of social phenomena, and can provide an important perspective on the I³ activity and the partnerships that are so central to it. The guiding assumption in the logic of SNA applications is that the overall structure of a network has consequences not only for its individual members, but also for the group, community, and institutional culture. Therefore, SNA provides a tool for describing and assessing the quality of relations among people and understanding the pattern of connections. To create a more comprehensive picture of not only the “what” but also the “why,” the research includes case studies of I³ projects. These studies are developed from 3-day site visits to the I³ projects by a multidisciplinary team composed of content (institutional change, organizational development) and evaluation experts, and include key informant interviews with individuals directly or indirectly involved with the project and review of documents.



Start: September 01, 2010
End: August 31, 2015

Project Members:


Westat, Inc.

Award Number: