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Type: Journal article
Title: Measuring social networks in British primary schools through scientific engagement
Author: Conlan, A.
Eames, K.
Gage, J.
von Kirchbach, J.
Ross, J.
Saenz, R.
Gog, J.
Citation: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2011; 278(1711):1467-1475
Publisher: Royal Society Publishing
Issue Date: 2011
ISSN: 0962-8452
Statement of
A. J. K. Conlan, K. T. D. Eames, J. A. Gage, J. C. von Kirchbach, J. V. Ross, R. A. Saenz and J. R. Gog
Abstract: Primary schools constitute a key risk group for the transmission of infectious diseases, concentrating great numbers of immunologically naive individuals at high densities. Despite this, very little is known about the social patterns of mixing within a school, which are likely to contribute to disease transmission. In this study, we present a novel approach where scientific engagement was used as a tool to access school populations and measure social networks between young (4–11 years) children. By embedding our research project within enrichment activities to older secondary school (13–15) children, we could exploit the existing links between schools to achieve a high response rate for our study population (around 90% in most schools). Social contacts of primary school children were measured through self-reporting based on a questionnaire design, and analysed using the techniques of social network analysis. We find evidence of marked social structure and gender assortativity within and between classrooms in the same school. These patterns have been previously reported in smaller studies, but to our knowledge no study has attempted to exhaustively sample entire school populations. Our innovative approach facilitates access to a vitally important (but difficult to sample) epidemiological sub-group. It provides a model whereby scientific communication can be used to enhance, rather than merely complement, the outcomes of research.
Keywords: schools; social networks; scientific outreach; epidemiology
Rights: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1807
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Mathematical Sciences publications

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