Consensus Formation in Nonprofit and Philanthropic Studies: Networks, Reputation, and Gender

Article, Refereed Journal
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
René Bekkers

The research field of nonprofits and philanthropy has grown exponentially. To what extent do nonprofit scholars share a common language? Answering this question is crucial to assessing the field’s intellectual cohesiveness. We studied how coauthor networks, scholarly reputation, and the prevalence of female authors influence consensus formation. We found that the degree of consensus for all major research topics in the field has increased over time—For every 10% growth in the volume of literature, shared language increased by 1.4%. A cohesive research community on nonprofits and philanthropy has been forming since the early 2000s. Female scholars are fewer in number and less cited than males; their presence did not exceed 40% for most topics. The citation counts of scholars and small-world property of networks are positively associated with consensus, suggesting that star researchers and knowledge brokers bridging different intellectual communities are key to sharing research interests and language.