Academic Profile

People Feature

Cohen Simpson

Non-Stipendiary Research Fellow

Research Interests : Social Networks, Organisations, Quantitative Methods

My research is built on a simple question: where do networks come from?

Understanding the origins of networks is integral to both the academic study of human social systems and any applied research hoping to detail how they affect individual outcomes such as substance use, depression and successful job search. In explaining the emergence of human social networks, scholars have vigorously discuss manifold generative mechanisms — those processes theorised to shape the establishment of social ties at the micro-level and, in turn, produce macro-level structure. Each of these processes have animated distinct streams of research across the social and natural sciences, yet there has been surprisingly little systematic comparison of their roles in structuring relations. Consequently, my primary scientific aim is to determine which of those mechanisms repeatedly found to structure human social networks may be expected to chiefly govern individuals’ decisions as they establish their ties. To do this, I am currently analysing novel data on friendship amongst virtually all adult residents of two rural villages in India (approximately 800 individuals).

Efforts to bring about — or prevent — social change are riddled with choices. In this respect, the existence of advocacy organisations, those entities with goals aimed at changing the state of society or protecting the status quo (e.g., NGOs, social movement organisations, think tanks), is one characterised by great uncertainty. Historically, sociologists have implicitly assumed that these organisations make strategic choices independently of one another. In a second line of research I break with this tendency to argue, and empirically demonstrate, that advocacy organisations are embedded in complex webs of relations (i.e., networks) through which they watch one another to learn about the viability of various strategic choices. This research is also concerned with the emergence of networks, however, its secondary theme is the ways in which competitive pressure amongst advocacy organisations may facilitate or hinder the establishment of inter-organisational ties.