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This paper contributes to the debate on the influence of electronic communication on the informal exchange of information among scientists and practitioners. The research is focused on an empirical analysis of three specialised Newsgroups in "speech technology" (comp.speech, comp.speech.research and comp.speech.users), over the period 1992-2000. Looking at these discussion forums as electronic systems of social interaction, it is appropriate to ask whether they are extending the traditional social networks of "invisible colleges" into the digital age? This paper concludes that this is indeed occurring.

First, to a significant extent these electronic environments support international and inter-sectoral remote collaboration. Secondly, these forums support the creation of key properties of "invisible colleges", persistent interaction among peers and a "division of labour" in the accumulation of expertise. Both of these properties are supported by a longitudinal network analysis of the forums.

Further opportunities for inquiry are discussed in the concluding section.
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Keywords: Electronic communication; Invisible colleges; Newsgroups; Scientific communication; Scientific communities; Webmetrics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: SPRU, Science and Technology Policy Research, Mantell Building, University of Sussex, Falmer - Brighton, BN1 9RF, United Kingdom

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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