Fonds F-250 - Bill Richards fonds

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Bill Richards fonds

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  • Multi-media
  • Textual records
  • Sound recordings
  • Moving images
  • Photographic materials

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  • Source of title proper: Title is based on the name of the fonds creator.

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  • 1971 - 2007 (Creation)
    Richards, Bill

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Physical description

1.7 m of textual records
9 audio cassettes
3 optical discs
3 computer disks (3.5" floppy)
2 videocassettes
1 photograph

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Name of creator

(17 December 1948 - 23 August 2007)

Biographical history

William Donald Richards, Jr. (1948-2007) was a professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University from 1976 until his untimely death in 2007. His work focused on the development and implementation of computer programs to research and analyze communication and information networks, social networks, and networks in large, complex organizations. His research, writing and NEGOPY software – the primary software program he developed to analyze networks – were recognized and utilized throughout the world. At the time of his passing, NEGOPY was in use at over 100 universities and research centres worldwide.

Richards was born on December 17, 1948 in Detroit, Michigan to William and June Richards. He was the eldest of five children. He attended the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, and went on to earn his BA in Communication from Michigan State University (MSU) in 1971. It was at MSU that he became interested in and wrote his first network analysis program, NETWOW. The experience prompted him to pursue graduate studies in Communication Research at Stanford University in California, where he earned an MA in 1973 and PhD in 1976. During his time at Stanford, NETWOW evolved into NEGOPY (said to be a blend of Negative Entropy, meaning information and structure) in collaboration with then-MSU Communication PhD student James A. Danowski. Another MSU PhD student, George A. Barnett, then taught Richards network analysis.

While at Stanford, Richards continued to develop NEGOPY, which initially ran only on CDC computers. For this reason, he would often run data through the software, analyzing and summarizing it on behalf of researchers worldwide. Soon thereafter, Richards began the task of re-writing the NEGOPY program to operate on IBMs. As a result, he was able to more readily disseminate the program to researchers, scholars, students, and organizations nationally and internationally for their research and use.

In August of 1976, Richards accepted a position as an Assistant Professor with SFU’s Department of Communication. He went on to become an Associate Professor with the Department in the fall of 1988, and then ultimately full Professor. He also had two semesters off-campus, the first as a Visiting Researcher in the Social Networks Program at the School of Social Science, University of California at Irvine in 1980, and the second as Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at State University of New York at Buffalo in 1989.

During his teaching career at SFU, Richards introduced and taught a number of new courses addressing communication and information networks, as well as network analysis theory and research. He was also a founding member of SFU’s Laboratory for Computer and Communication Research, established in 1982 as a collaboration between the Department of Communication and the School of Computing Science to promote inquiry into the problems of computing and communication research. Richards also served in various supporting roles for his department, including as undergraduate advisor and chair.

Throughout his career, Richards’ work and NEGOPY software resulted in numerous fruitful collaborations, grant-funded research projects, case studies, and communications with colleagues and organizations in both the public and private sectors. He continued to develop NEGOPY as changes arose in the field of social network analysis, creating newer versions of and manuals for the software, and developing network utilities to make the data easier to work with. In the 1980s Richards created FATCAT, a network analysis program designed for categorical analysis of multivariate multiplex communication network data. This was followed by MultiNet, an extended replacement for FATCAT, in collaboration with Andrew J. Seary, an SFU researcher-programmer. Seary was also Richards' partner in "The Vancouver Network Analysis Team," which specialized in social network analysis software.

Richards was an active member of INSNA, the International Network for Social Network Analysis, a global research organization. At the time of his death, he was co-editor and publisher of INSNA’s journal, “Connections,” and had been INSNA President for four years. He had also been the organization's webmaster since 2002, managing conference registration and membership renewals. In 2000, Richards organized and convened INSNA's twentieth annual International Sunbelt Social Network Conference, as well as the "Vancouver Symposium on Networks, Needles, Drugs, Risk and Infectious Disease."

Richards’ impact on the field of communication was significant and far-reaching. Beyond his dedication to his work and colleagues, Richards was also an avid gardener and photographer.

Richards died suddenly at his home in Vancouver, BC on August 23, 2007.

Custodial history

Bill Richards' records were in his custody until his death in 2007. Percilla Groves, former SFU Librarian and partner of Richards' colleague and research collaborator Andrew J. Seary, maintained custody of the records in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University until transferring them to the SFU Archives in 2008. The records were officially donated to the SFU Archives in 2011 by Richards' brother, Pat Richards.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records relating primarily to the academic and professional life of Bill Richards, and in part to his personal life. Activities, topics, and events documented include Richards’ course development and instruction; academic conference participation and presentations; research projects and partnerships; writing and publications; computer software development, implementation, communications, and analyses; grant writing and applications; employment; and his death and memorial. Records include correspondence, notes, course syllabi, program manuals and data sets, publications and reports, grant applications, conference programs and proceedings, software programs, and sound and moving image recordings.

Fonds is arranged into 7 series:

  1. Personal records
  2. Teaching records
  3. Correspondence
  4. Research
  5. Presentations and writing
  6. Grants
  7. Conferences and professional affiliations

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The material was arranged by the archivist into series based on the personal and professional activities of Bill Richards.

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Restrictions on access

Some files may contain personal or confidential information. Files marked "pending review" must be reviewed by an archivist prior to release and, as a result of the review, access restrictions may apply. Please see the file lists and consult the reference archivist for more details.

Copyright subsists in all or some of the records. Generally, the university is the copyright owner only to works that the donor authored. Please consult the reference archivist for details about the use of copyrighted materials.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Finding aid

Associated materials

For more information about "The Vancouver Network Analysis Team," a collaboration of Bill Richards and Andrew J. Seary, which specialized in social network analysis software, see:

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

July 2014: finding aid prepared (Rita Mogyorosi).
August 2014: "Department of Communication" as name access point (subject) removed (Rita Mogyorosi).
December 2015: associated materials addition made (Rita Mogyorosi).

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