Statistical Network Analysis for Analyzing Policy Networks


Garry Robins, PhD, is a mathematical psychologist and social network methodologist in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research has concentrated on developing exponential random graph models for social networks but he is also involved in a wide range of empirical social network projects.

Jenny M. Lewis, PhD, is professor of public administration and public policy in the Department of Society and Globalisation at Roskilde University, Denmark. Her research is concentrated on the policy process, new forms of governance, and the consequences of performance measurement. Her most recent book is Connecting and Cooperating: Social Capital and Public Policy.

Peng Wang is a research fellow in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research focuses on the development of exponential random graph models for bipartite and multilevel networks, and the implementation and optimization of the software package PNet for statistical analysis of social networks.


To analyze social network data using standard statistical approaches is to risk incorrect inference. The dependencies among observations implied in a network conceptualization undermine standard assumptions of the usual general linear models. One of the most quickly expanding areas of social and policy network methodology is the development of statistical modeling approaches that can accommodate such dependent data. In this article, we review three network statistical methods commonly used in the current literature: quadratic assignment procedures, exponential random graph models (ERGMs), and stochastic actor-oriented models. We focus most attention on ERGMs by providing an illustrative example of a model for a strategic information network within a local government. We draw inferences about the structural role played by individuals recognized as key innovators and conclude that such an approach has much to offer in analyzing the policy process.