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Healthc Policy. 2016 May; 11(4): 8–9.
PMCID: PMC4872546

The Importance and Power of Networks in Health Research, Practice and Policy

Jennifer Zelmer, PhD, Editor-in-chief

Movies and other forms of popular culture have propagated the notion that we are all joined by six degrees of separation. The conjecture dates back to at least the late 1920s and the writings of Hungarian Frigyes Karinthy (Boccara 2010). It continues to feature in games, television shows and social media today.

Formal research has proven this theory to be valid in some cases and has refined it in others. More importantly, studies have explored why people in networks sometimes do – and other times do not – invest time, energy and effort to connect and share knowledge with others. Factors such as the strength of ties between members of a network, its social cohesion and its range have been shown to influence this type of collaboration (Tortoriello et al. 2011). Likewise, while dense clusters of strong connections offer considerable value, new insights and information often come via weak ties with contacts who have access to non-redundant information (Granovetter 1973). This makes bridges between network clusters particularly helpful.

In producing Healthcare Policy/Politiques de Santé we depend on the power of networks and seek to connect and broaden them for the benefit of our community. For instance, networks are essential to eliciting high-quality manuscripts that fit the journal's mandate, to recruiting appropriate peer reviewers who are experts in a wide range of topics, and to serving the information needs of the journal's readers, both in domains that they are already familiar with and in those that are relevant to but beyond their usual focus.

This effort would not be possible without the many and varied contributions of the journal's editors, authors, peer reviewers and staff. We have strong ties with many experts in the topics that we cover and aim to build bridges across the community. We also take advantage of our collective networks to recruit suitable reviewers and to foster a rich discussion and debate through the articles that we publish.

Further, action on the results of the research and thinking published in the journal's pages depends on an even larger informal network that extends across the country and around the world. The breadth of articles in this issue of the journal illustrates the range and scope of possibilities involved. Authors focus on topics ranging from home care to hospitals, from broad public policy debates to specific questions related to coverage for orphan drugs.

As this is the final issue for this volume of the journal, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone involved in the publication process over the last year. This thank you is due both on my own behalf and on behalf of all those who will benefit from the improved understanding, policy and health services that will come from the application of the learnings published throughout this volume of Healthcare Policy/Politiques de santé.

References

  • Boccara N. 2010. Modeling Complex Systems. 2nd edition New York: Springer Science and Business Media.
  • Granovetter M. 1973. “The Strength of Weak Ties.American Journal of Sociology 78(6): 1360–80. 10.1086/225469.
  • Tortoriello M., Reagans R., McEvily B. 2011. “Bridging the Knowledge Gap: The Influence of Strong Ties, Network Cohesion, and Network Range on the Transfer of Knowledge between Organizational Units.Organisation Science 23(4): 1024–39. 10.1287/orsc.1110.0688.

Articles from Healthcare Policy are provided here courtesy of Longwoods Publishing