Thoughts from the President

September 16, 2022 - BioBash and Network Strength

Dear Danforth Center Community,

This week, the Committee for Scientific Mentoring and Training (CSTM) at the Danforth Center is organizing and hosting BioBash, an annual, regional gathering of young scientists for career networking and discussion of opportunities in the life sciences. This two-afternoon event brings together graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, research professionals and employers from across St. Louis, and is yet another example of leadership from CSTM members to promote their growth and success. Coincidently, the journal Science just published the results of a large scale study by Rajkumar et al. (and accompanying Perspective article) that explains why BioBash is so important for the careers and job-seeking prospects of those who participate.

The power of one’s social network in job seeking success has long been appreciated. The current paper describes a massive analysis of job-seeking data from 20 million LinkedIn users to determine the kinds of social interactions that are most important for job-getting success. They tested the causal impact of having strong ties (like family members and close friends) and weak ties (like friends of friends) on successful job movement. Counterintuitively, it turns out that weak ties are collectively more important than strong ties as connections that result in job-seeking success! Having at least a moderate number of weak ties has the strongest causal effect. This work strengthens an earlier hypothesis about weak ties serving to bridge diverse networks and to reveal opportunities about which one may not be aware. Strong ties, on the other hand, more frequently limit knowledge-sharing about, say, a new job opportunity to information that people in the group already know.

The new results provide support for the notion that people are willing to help one another based on a weak connection or on having something in common, like attending BioBash as one of a few hundred participants. Consider how much larger everyone’s weak tie network becomes due solely to attendance at this event. We now have research to show just how important that is.

Many thanks to CSTM and all other Center community members who are organizing, attending and enabling BioBash. Your efforts will matter for a long time to come!

Jim Carrington, President and Chief Executive Officer

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