The inner workings of collaboration in marine ecosystem-based management: A social network analysis approach
Collaboration across sectors and disciplines is widely identified as essential for the implementation of ecosystem-based management (EBM) in both marine and terrestrial settings. However, relatively little research has examined the inner workings of collaborative marine EBM processes. Social network analysis (SNA) is a suite of methods for systematically analyzing and mapping relations between individuals or organizations, and can be used as a means of understanding the inner workings of collaboration. The authors applied SNA methods to cases of collaborative marine EBM planning in Rhode Island and New York, U.S.A., focusing on network structure and the role and influence of individual actors within their respective planning networks. Results highlighted the importance of diverse, decentralized networks of moderate density as well as the influence that bridging ties, or “brokers,” can wield in such processes. Research also found that non-governmental actors, such as university outreach specialists and scientists affiliated with environmental organizations, can be especially influential in collaborative marine EBM planning. This paper presents the results of this analysis, discusses the utility of this method for the analysis of collaborative marine EBM planning, and offers recommendations for future research and practice.