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Brian Uzzi receives the Euler Award from the Network Science Society

Brian Uzzi is the 2022 recipient of the Euler Award from the Network Science Society (NetSci) for his foundational theoretical and empirical contributions to the study of embeddedness in networks, and how it shapes human achievement, economic activity, artistic and scientific creativity, and workplace gender inequality.

The Euler Award is conferred yearly for outstanding research discoveries in the field of network science, especially those that changed paradigms or assumptions. Professor Uzzi, a sociologist, is the first social scientist to win this prize. At Northwestern University is the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Leadership at the Kellogg School of Management, a Co-Director of NICO, the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, and holds professorships in sociology and at the McCormick School of Engineering.

The crucial idea of embeddedness is that economic agents and innovators are immersed in social networks that significantly influence how they form alliances, collaborate, and manage transactions (business deals, experiments, or creativity). Embedding relationships affects levels of trust and reciprocity among collaborators, which enables them to overcome their personal limitations through others, thereby improving individual human achievement through collective behavior.

Professor Uzzi’s research on embeddedness is concentrated in a series of papers spanning three decades, from the mid-1990s to today, that investigate the phenomena in the fields of commerce, science and technology, and the creative arts. Collectively the work has received over 10 international scientific prizes that span the fields of sociology, management science, business, computer science, and ecology.

In the 1990s he published two influential empirical papers focusing on embeddedness in organizations. His 1996 paper in American Sociological Review examined how embedded networks impact the economic performance of organizations. His 1997 article in Administrative Science Quarterly pinpoints the paradox of embeddedness in interfirm networks. These two articles combined have been cited over 21,000 times.

Professor Uzzi’s work continued with his 2000 book Athena Unbound (Cambridge Press) and his 1994 Science article, showing the power of embeddedness in explaining gender inequality and exclusion in science. His 2005 Science paper applied the ideas of embeddedness to team science and helped launch the Science of Team Science field.

In 2011, his article in Nature helped to reveal the inner workings of relationships between predator and prey in ecology networks, and was honored by the Vanguard Science Award in Spain. A paper in PLoS ONE in 2016 applied embeddedness to the stock market showing that the microstructure of the market is a dense network of types of social connections that, even though developed for non-economic purposes, can enhance, or detract from economic efficiency in the market.

More recently, his 2019 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper took the idea of embeddedness to understand women’s success in positions of leadership, particularly on how women can get ahead in their careers.

Professor Uzzi’s work on embeddedness has had broad actionable implications. It has been incorporated into the business practices of social media companies as well as investment banks, law firms, and arts organizations, and was formally recognized by the Association for Corporate Growth Chicago Fellow Award. Dr. Uzzi’s has also brought these powerful ideas into the hands of MBA and executive management students by creating several popular courses on network science for practicing managers, scientists, and arts professionals.


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