I study the intellectual, social and institutional dynamics of educational systems like schools, classrooms, universities and disciplines. In particular, I have performed a series of studies on classroom organization and interaction; on the formation of adolescent relationships, social structures, and identities; on interdisciplinary collaboration and intellectual innovation; and on the form, dynamics and innovation of scientific fields. I have broad research interests and have been drawn into a variety of interdisciplinary collaborations with linguists, computer scientists, and sociologists. This in turn has led to studies of big data and methodological advances in social networks, language modeling and the study of innovation.

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Education (2000 - Present)
  • Director, Stanford Center for Computational Social Science (2012 - 2016)
  • Director, Stanford Center for Computational Social Science (2018 - 2020)

Honors & Awards

  • Gould Award, American Journal of Sociology (2013-14)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Award, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2014-17)

Program Affiliations

  • Science, Technology and Society

Professional Education

  • PhD/MA, University of Chicago, Sociology, Sociology
  • BA, University of Chicago, Philosophy
  • BA, University of Chicago, Sociology

Research Interests

  • Data Sciences
  • Diversity and Identity
  • Higher Education
  • Leadership and Organization
  • Philosophy
  • Research Methods
  • Sociology

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

The majority of my current research projects concern the sociology of science and research innovation. Here are some examples of projects we are pursuing:
1. the process of intellectual jurisdiction across fields and disciplines
2. the process of knowledge innovation diffusion in science
3. the propagators of scientific careers and advance
4. the role of identity and diversity on the process of knowledge diffusion and career advance
5. the process of research translation across scientific fields and into practice
6. the formal properties and mechanisms of ideational change (network analysis, or holistic conceptions of scientific propositions and ideas)
7. developing methods for identifying the rediscovery of old ideas recast anew
8. investigating the process of scientific review

I am also heavily involved in research on social networks and social network theory development. Some of my work concerns relational dynamics and cognitive networks as represented in communication. This often concerns the communication of children (in their writings and speech in classrooms) and academic scholars. I am also co-editing a special issue in Social Networks on "network ecology", and I am a coauthor on a social network methods textbook coming out with Cambridge Press (Forthcoming, by Craig Rawlings, Jeff Smith, James Moody and Daniel McFarland).

Last, I am heavily involved in institutional efforts to develop computational social science, computational sociology, and education data science on Stanford's campus.

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • How New Ideas Diffuse in Science AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW Cheng, M., Smith, D., Ren, X., Cao, H., Smith, S., McFarland, D. A. 2023
  • Writing into relationships SOCIAL NETWORKS McFarland, D. A., Wolff, T. 2022; 71: 96-114
  • Systematic analysis of 50 years of Stanford University technology transfer and commercialization. Patterns (New York, N.Y.) Liang, W., Elrod, S., McFarland, D. A., Zou, J. 2022; 3 (9): 100584


    This article systematically investigates the technology licensing by Stanford University. We analyzed all the inventions marketed by Stanford's Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) between 1970 to 2020, with 4,512 inventions from 6,557 inventors. We quantified how the innovation landscape at Stanford changed over time and examined factors that correlate with commercial success. We found that the most profitable inventions are predominantly licensed by inventors' own startups, inventions have involved larger teams over time, and the proportion of female inventors has tripled over the past 25 years. We also identified linguistic features in how the inventors and OTL describe the inventions that significantly correlate with the invention's future revenue. Interestingly, inventions with more adjectives in their abstracts have worse net income. Our study opens up a new perspective for analyzing the translation of research into practice and commercialization using large-scale computational and linguistics analysis.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.patter.2022.100584

    View details for PubMedID 36124300

  • Abstract(s) at the core: a case study of disciplinary identity in the field of linguistics HIGHER EDUCATION LiCausi, T. J., McFarland, D. A. 2022
  • Diversifying the Professoriate SOCIUS Hofstra, B., McFarland, D. A., Smith, S., Jurgens, D. 2022; 8
  • Diversifying history: A large-scale analysis of changes in researcher demographics and scholarly agendas. PloS one Risi, S., Nielsen, M. W., Kerr, E., Brady, E., Kim, L., McFarland, D. A., Jurafsky, D., Zou, J., Schiebinger, L. 1800; 17 (1): e0262027


    BACKGROUND: In recent years, interest has grown in whether and to what extent demographic diversity sparks discovery and innovation in research. At the same time, topic modeling has been employed to discover differences in what women and men write about. This study engages these two strands of scholarship to explore associations between changing researcher demographics and research questions asked in the discipline of history. Specifically, we analyze developments in history as women entered the field.METHODS: We focus on author gender in diachronic analysis of history dissertations from 1980 (when online data is first available) to 2015 and a select set of general history journals from 1950 to 2015. We use correlated topic modeling and network visualizations to map developments in research agendas over time and to examine how women and men have contributed to these developments.RESULTS: Our summary snapshot of aggregate interests of women and men for the period 1950 to 2015 identifies new topics associated with women authors: gender and women's history, body history, family and households, consumption and consumerism, and sexuality. Diachronic analysis demonstrates that while women pioneered topics such as gender and women's history or the history of sexuality, these topics broaden over time to become methodological frameworks that historians widely embraced and that changed in interesting ways as men engaged with them. Our analysis of history dissertations surface correlations between advisor/advisee gender pairings and choice of dissertation topic.CONCLUSIONS: Overall, this quantitative longitudinal study suggests that the growth in women historians has coincided with the broadening of research agendas and an increased sensitivity to new topics and methodologies in the field.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0262027

    View details for PubMedID 35045091

  • Gendered knowledge in fields and academic careers RESEARCH POLICY Kim, L., Smith, D., Hofstra, B., McFarland, D. A. 2022; 51 (1)
  • Facets of Specialization and Its Relation to Career Success: An Analysis of US Sociology, 1980 to 2015 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW Heiberger, R. H., Galvez, S., McFarland, D. A. 2021
  • Education Data Science: Past, Present, Future AERA OPEN McFarland, D. A., Khanna, S., Domingue, B. W., Pardos, Z. A. 2021; 7
  • Creative Destruction: The Structural Consequences of Scientific Curation AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW McMahan, P., McFarland, D. A. 2021
  • The Meeting of Minds: Forging Social and Intellectual Networks within Universities SOCIOLOGICAL SCIENCE Stark, T. H., Rambaran, J., McFarland, D. A. 2020; 7: 433–64

    View details for DOI 10.15195/v7.a18

    View details for Web of Science ID 000569767000001

  • The Diversity-Innovation Paradox in Science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Hofstra, B., Kulkarni, V. V., Munoz-Najar Galvez, S., He, B., Jurafsky, D., McFarland, D. A. 2020


    Prior work finds a diversity paradox: Diversity breeds innovation, yet underrepresented groups that diversify organizations have less successful careers within them. Does the diversity paradox hold for scientists as well? We study this by utilizing a near-complete population of 1.2 million US doctoral recipients from 1977 to 2015 and following their careers into publishing and faculty positions. We use text analysis and machine learning to answer a series of questions: How do we detect scientific innovations? Are underrepresented groups more likely to generate scientific innovations? And are the innovations of underrepresented groups adopted and rewarded? Our analyses show that underrepresented groups produce higher rates of scientific novelty. However, their novel contributions are devalued and discounted: For example, novel contributions by gender and racial minorities are taken up by other scholars at lower rates than novel contributions by gender and racial majorities, and equally impactful contributions of gender and racial minorities are less likely to result in successful scientific careers than for majority groups. These results suggest there may be unwarranted reproduction of stratification in academic careers that discounts diversity's role in innovation and partly explains the underrepresentation of some groups in academia.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1915378117

    View details for PubMedID 32291335

  • The Patterning of Collaborative Behavior and Knowledge Culminations in Interdisciplinary Research Centers MINERVA Makinen, E. I., Evans, E. D., McFarland, D. A. 2020; 58 (1)
  • Paradigm Wars Revisited: A Cartography of Graduate Research in the Field of Education (1980-2010) AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL Galvez, S., Heiberger, R., McFarland, D. 2019
  • The Patterning of Collaborative Behavior and Knowledge Culminations in Interdisciplinary Research Centers Minerva Mäkinen, E. I., Evans, E. D., McFarland, D. A. 2019: 1-25
  • Superstars in the making? The broad effects of interdisciplinary centers RESEARCH POLICY Biancani, S., Dahlander, L., McFarland, D. A., Smith, S. 2018; 47 (3): 543–57
  • Measuring the evolution of a scientific field through citation frames Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics Jurgens, D., Kumar, S., Hoover, R., McFarland, D., Jurafsky, D. 2018; 6: 391-406
  • Modeling Affinity based Popularity Dynamics Kim, M., McFarland, D. A., Leskovec, J., Assoc Comp Machinery ASSOC COMPUTING MACHINERY. 2017: 477–86
  • Descriptive Analysis in Education: A Guide for Researchers. NCEE 2017-4023. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance Loeb, S., Dynarski, S., McFarland, D., Morris, P., Reardon, S., Reber, S. 2017
  • Ethnic Composition and Friendship Segregation: Differential Effects for Adolescent Natives and Immigrants AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY Smith, S., van Tubergen, F., Maas, I., McFarland, D. A. 2016; 121 (4): 1223-1272


    Ethnically diverse settings provide opportunities for interethnic friendship but can also increase the preference for same-ethnic friendship. Therefore, same-ethnic friendship preferences, or ethnic homophily, can work at cross-purposes with policy recommendations to diversify ethnic representation in social settings. In order to effectively overcome ethnic segregation, we need to identify those factors within diverse settings that exacerbate the tendency toward ethnic homophily. Using unique data and multiple network analyses, the authors examine 529 adolescent friendship networks in English, German, Dutch, and Swedish schools and find that the ethnic composition of school classes relates differently to immigrant and native homophily. Immigrant homophily disproportionately increases as immigrants see more same-ethnic peers, and friendship density among natives has no effect on this. By contrast, native homophily remains relatively low until natives see dense groups of immigrants. The authors' results suggest that theories of interethnic competition and contact opportunities apply differently to ethnic majority and minority groups.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000369717400006

  • Sociology in the era of big data: The ascent of forensic social science The American Sociologist McFarland, D. A., Lewis, K., Goldberg, A. 2016; 47 (1): 12-35
  • Community (in) colleges: The relationship between online network involvement and academic outcomes at a community college Community College Review Evans, E. D., McFarland, D. A., Rios-Aguilar, C., Deil-Amen, R. 2016; 44 (3): 232-254
  • Measuring paradigmaticness of disciplines using text Sociological Science Evans, E. D., Gomez, C. J., McFarland, D. A. 2016; 3: 757-778
  • Citation classification for behavioral analysis of a scientific field arXiv preprint arXiv:1609.00435 Jurgens, D., Kumar, S., Hoover, R., McFarland, D., Jurafsky, D. 2016
  • Streams of Thought: Knowledge Flows and Intellectual Cohesion in a Multidisciplinary Era SOCIAL FORCES Rawlings, C. M., McFarland, D. A., Dahlander, L., Wang, D. 2015; 93 (4): 1687-1722

    View details for DOI 10.1093/sf/sov004

    View details for Web of Science ID 000355663700044

  • The Organization of Schools and Classrooms Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Interdisciplinary, Searchable, and Linkable Resource Diehl, D., McFarland, D. A. 2015: 1-15
  • Big data and the danger of being precisely inaccurate Big Data & Society McFarland, D. A., McFarland, R. 2015; 2 (2): 2053951715602495
  • Social Informatics: SocInfo 2014 International Workshops, Barcelona, Spain, November 11, 2014, Revised Selected Papers Aiello, L. M., McFarland, D. Springer. 2015
  • Network Ecology and Adolescent Social Structure AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW McFarland, D. A., Moody, J., Diehl, D., Smith, J. A., Thomas, R. J. 2014; 79 (6): 1088-1121


    Adolescent societies-whether arising from weak, short-term classroom friendships or from close, long-term friendships-exhibit various levels of network clustering, segregation, and hierarchy. Some are rank-ordered caste systems and others are flat, cliquish worlds. Explaining the source of such structural variation remains a challenge, however, because global network features are generally treated as the agglomeration of micro-level tie-formation mechanisms, namely balance, homophily, and dominance. How do the same micro-mechanisms generate significant variation in global network structures? To answer this question we propose and test a network ecological theory that specifies the ways features of organizational environments moderate the expression of tie-formation processes, thereby generating variability in global network structures across settings. We develop this argument using longitudinal friendship data on schools (Add Health study) and classrooms (Classroom Engagement study), and by extending exponential random graph models to the study of multiple societies over time.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0003122414554001

    View details for Web of Science ID 000345458400003

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4271807

  • The Semiformal Organization ORGANIZATION SCIENCE Biancani, S., McFarland, D. A., Dahlander, L. 2014; 25 (5): 1306-1324
  • Encouraging Forum Participation in Online Courses with Collectivist, Individualist, and Neutral Motivational Framings. eLearning Papers Kizilcec, R., Schneider, E., Cohen, G., McFarland, D. A. 2014; 37
  • The Semi-Formal Organization Organization Science, Permalink: Biancani, S., Dahlander, L., McFarland, D. A. 2014
  • Hierarchical models for relational event sequences JOURNAL OF MATHEMATICAL PSYCHOLOGY DuBois, C., Butts, C. T., Mcfarland, D., Smyth, P. 2013; 57 (6): 297-309
  • Differentiating language usage through topic models POETICS McFarland, D. A., Ramage, D., Chuang, J., Heer, J., Manning, C. D., Jurafsky, D. 2013; 41 (6): 607-625
  • Making the Connection: Social Bonding in Courtship Situations AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY McFarland, D. A., Jurafsky, D., Rawlings, C. 2013; 118 (6): 1596-1649

    View details for DOI 10.1086/670240

    View details for Web of Science ID 000321045300004

  • Transdisciplinary translational science and the case of preterm birth JOURNAL OF PERINATOLOGY Stevenson, D. K., Shaw, G. M., Wise, P. H., Norton, M. E., Druzin, M. L., Valantine, H. A., McFarland, D. A. 2013; 33 (4): 251-258


    Medical researchers have called for new forms of translational science that can solve complex medical problems. Mainstream science has made complementary calls for heterogeneous teams of collaborators who conduct transdisciplinary research so as to solve complex social problems. Is transdisciplinary translational science what the medical community needs? What challenges must the medical community overcome to successfully implement this new form of translational science? This article makes several contributions. First, it clarifies the concept of transdisciplinary research and distinguishes it from other forms of collaboration. Second, it presents an example of a complex medical problem and a concrete effort to solve it through transdisciplinary collaboration: for example, the problem of preterm birth and the March of Dimes effort to form a transdisciplinary research center that synthesizes knowledge on it. The presentation of this example grounds discussion on new medical research models and reveals potential means by which they can be judged and evaluated. Third, this article identifies the challenges to forming transdisciplines and the practices that overcome them. Departments, universities and disciplines tend to form intellectual silos and adopt reductionist approaches. Forming a more integrated (or 'constructionist'), problem-based science reflective of transdisciplinary research requires the adoption of novel practices to overcome these obstacles.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/jp.2012.133

    View details for PubMedID 23079774

  • Ties That Last: Tie Formation and Persistence in Research Collaborations over Time ADMINISTRATIVE SCIENCE QUARTERLY Dahlander, L., McFarland, D. A. 2013; 58 (1): 69-110
  • Social Networks Research in Higher Education. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research Biancani, S., McFarland, D. A. 2013; 28: 151-215
  • Detecting friendly, flirtatious, awkward, and assertive speech in speed-dates COMPUTER SPEECH AND LANGUAGE Ranganath, R., Jurafsky, D., McFarland, D. A. 2013; 27 (1): 89-115
  • Measurement error in network data: A re-classification SOCIAL NETWORKS Wang, D. J., Shi, X., McFarland, D. A., Leskovec, J. 2012; 34 (4): 396-409
  • Classroom Ordering and the Situational Imperatives of Routine and Ritual SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION Diehl, D., McFarland, D. A. 2012; 85 (4): 326-349
  • Influence flows in the academy: Using affiliation networks to assess peer effects among researchers SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH Rawlings, C. M., McFarland, D. A. 2011; 40 (3): 1001-1017
  • The Ties that Influence: How Social Networks Channel Faculty Grant Productivity. Social Science Research Rawlings, C., McFarland, D. A. 2011; 40: 1001-1017
  • Network Search: A New Way of Seeing the Education Knowledge Domain TEACHERS COLLEGE RECORD Mcfarland, D., Klopfer, E. 2010; 112 (10): 2664-2702
  • Toward a Historical Sociology of Social Situations AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY Diehl, D., Mcfarland, D. 2010; 115 (6): 1713-1752
  • Organization by Design: Supply- and Demand-side Models of Mathematics Course Taking SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION McFarland, D. A., Rodan, S. 2009; 82 (4): 315-343
  • Inside Student Government: The Variable Quality of High School Student Councils TEACHERS COLLEGE RECORD McFarland, D. A., Starmanns, C. 2009; 111 (1): 27-54
  • Curricular flows: Trajectories, turning points, and assignment criteria in high school math careers SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION McFarland, D. A. 2006; 79 (3): 177-205
  • Bowling young: How youth voluntary associations influence adult political participation AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW McFarland, D. A., Thomas, R. J. 2006; 71 (3): 401-425
  • The Art and Science of Dynamic Network Visualization. Journal of Social Structure, Permalink: Bender-deMoll , S., McFarland, D. A. 2006; 7 (2)
  • Motives and contexts of identity change: A case for network effects 98th Annual Meeting of the American-Sociological-Association McFarland, D., Pals, H. SAGE PUBLICATIONS INC. 2005: 289–315
  • Dynamic network visualization AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY Moody, J., McFarland, D., Bender-deMoll, S. 2005; 110 (4): 1206-1241
  • Resistance as a social drama: A study of change-oriented encounters AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY McFarland, D. A. 2004; 109 (6): 1249-1318
  • When tensions mount: Conceptualizing classroom situations and the conditions of student-teacher conflict Conference on Stability and Change in American Education McFarland, D. A. ELIOT WERNER PUBLIATIONS INC. 2003: 127–150
  • Student resistance: How the formal and informal organization of classrooms facilitate everyday forms of student defiance AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY McFarland, D. A. 2001; 107 (3): 612-678