Ties That Last - Tie Formation and Persistence in Research Collaborations over Time

By Linus DahlanderDaniel A. McFarland
Administrative Science Quarterly
March2013 Vol. 58 Issue 1 Pages 69-110.

Using a longitudinal dataset of research collaborations over 15 years at Stanford University, we build a theory of intraorganizational task relationships that distinguishes the different factors associated with the formation and persistence of network ties. We highlight six factors: shared organizational foci, shared traits and interests, tie advantages from popularity, tie reinforcement from third parties, tie strength and multiplexity, and the instrumental returns from the products of ties. Findings suggest that ties form when unfamiliar people identify desirable and matching traits in potential partners. By contrast, ties persist when familiar people reflect on the quality of their relationship and shared experiences. The former calls for shallow, short-term strategies for assessing a broad array of potential ties; the latter calls for long-term strategies and substantive assessments of a relationship’s worth so as to draw extended rewards from the association. This suggests that organizational activities geared toward sustaining persistent intraorganizational task relationships need to be different from activities aimed at forging new ones.