College of Arts and Sciences


  • Rice and Hickman Publish Study Assessing Small World Networks

    March 7, 2011

    Assistant Professors Stephen Rice and Matthew Hickman of the Department of Criminal Justice published "A Preliminary Assessment of Small World Scholarship Networks in Criminology and Criminal Justice" in the March 2011 issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice Education. In assessing the structure of small world scientific networks, analogous to the “six degrees of separation” phenomenon, they found that small world scientific networks can pinpoint areas of clustering in criminal justice research.

    Rice and Hickman, who used a database of over 700 peer reviewed articles from three seminal journals in criminology and criminal justice, applied a small world network analysis to assess scholarship collaboration. They found that measures of network “centerness” illustrate potential dynamics related to cohort, mentor, and research area effects, and that breadth-first search algorithms may have important implications for varied criminal justice concerns.

    AsRice explained, “In these findings focused on small world scientific networks, we see potential applications to any research question that deals with the clustering of human actors, such as delinquent peer networks, terror networks, or fencing operations.”

    "The concept of small worlds has been applied to far-reaching topics such as Milgram's 'lost letter' technique and 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' movie actor networks,” Hickman (above) added, “It will be important to see whether small worlds illuminate matters of crime and justice."    

    Rice and Hickman were joined by software engineer Patrick Reynolds of Chapel Hill, NC.  The research was supported by student research assistant Laura Polson from the College of Arts & Sciences.  

    The College of Arts and Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in criminal justice, including forensic psychology, forensic science, and criminology, and a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice.


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