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Mapping employee networks through the NIST Interactions Survey



Laura Espinal, Camila Young, Justyna Zwolak


As we begin to adopt approaches to help the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) become a more inclusive organization, we need a way to assess the current level of inclusivity. The extent to which individuals have access to information and resources is largely associated with inclusion in the workplace, suggesting that analysis of individuals' social networks may be an important component of this assessment. Network surveys provide a unique lens through which a wide range of networks, including networks of collaboration, mentorship, and trust, can be studied. As a result of such studies, efforts to improve on inclusivity can be directed towards where they are needed the most. Herein, we describe the NIST Interactions Survey–a data collection tool developed for mapping and analyzing personal ego networks of NIST Federal Employees and aimed at quantifying the work- and career advice-related networks. In this study, we assess inclusivity at NIST through the lens of social network analysis to provide NIST with insights about the current work climate. With an overall response rate of approximately 25 %, we find that the structure of the work- and advice-related ego networks provides important insights into the interaction patterns at NIST. An analysis of the network data confirms a siloed effect associated with the Organizational Unit affiliation of the respondents and their connections in the work and advice networks. Interestingly, we find that, while the composition of work ego networks tend to be quite aligned with what would be expected based on the workforce demographics, interactions in the advice ego networks reveal preferences associated with age and gender. In terms of gender, male employees show preference for male-dominated advice networks, which is not surprising given our predominantly male workforce. For the same workforce demographic, however, we observe three distinct types of female networks: two capturing strong preferences to seek advice from single-gender-dominated networks, be it male or female, and a third one with the gender composition quite evenly balanced. In terms of age preferences, we find that younger employees tend to seek advice from more experienced colleagues. Interestingly, no discernible differences are observed between the networks of minority and non-minority employees for either work or advice. Based on these findings, we recommend strategies for bridging the silos between the Laboratories and the rest of the Organizational Units, nurturing informal connections among female colleagues, and mapping employee networks among different minority groups (e.g. American Indian, Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, Other). Although other approaches are possible, we believe that the recommendations proposed in this report will be a good start for NIST to become the inclusive organization we aspire to be.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 8375
Report Number


Inclusivity, diversity, employee networks, ego networks, social network analysis, homophily.


Espinal, L. , Young, C. and Zwolak, J. (2021), Mapping employee networks through the NIST Interactions Survey, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed April 14, 2024)
Created June 21, 2021, Updated November 29, 2022