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Social richness, socio-technical tension and the virtual commissioning of NHS research

Morgan, P., McCourt, C. & Youll, P. (2007). Social richness, socio-technical tension and the virtual commissioning of NHS research. Health Research Policy and Systems, 5, 8. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-5-8


BACKGROUND: This paper draws on a recent study that evaluated the process of commissioning NHS funded research using virtual committees. Building on an earlier paper that reported our evaluation, here we focus on the effects of asynchronous computer mediated communication (CMC) when used to support group work.

METHODS: To do this the discussion focuses on how CMC affected three key group factors, building relationships, group cohesion and group commitment. The notion of socio-technical tension is elaborated and the paper explores how social richness can act to counter the socially impoverishing and time extending effects of asynchronous CMC.

RESULTS: We argue that social richness in this context results from the presence of five principal influences. These are: a dynamic range of participant aspirations and personal agendas; participant commitment to and identification with the work and ideals of the group; a rich diversity of social, professional and work-related backgrounds; a website designed to enhance participation and interaction and the mediating effects of an effective chairperson.

CONCLUSION: If virtual work groups are to be used by the NHS in the future, then there is a need for more research into the role of social context and its relationship to the effectiveness of newly formed virtual groups. Equally as important are studies that examine the effects of socio-technical interaction on groups undertaking tasks in the real world of work.

Publication Type: Article
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution 2.0.

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