The aim of this paper is to analyse emergence of rural expert networks and their function on the basis of an example network. The case study concerns the European Rural Development Network (ERDN). Networking has been regarded as a central model of action during this century for most of fields of society and economy. The European Union emphasizes the role of cooperation between the Member States, organizations and regions. In addition, the EU research framework programmes are based on existing or project-based research networks in most cases. The number of rural networks has risen rapidly during the last years at regional, national as well as international level. In countries dominated by rural areas, especially in those with small population and sparse population structure, the need for networking has been highlighted because of low and scattered number of rural development actors and experts. There is a need to unite the limited resources. Networking is also expected to create new innovations, increase productivity and save public resources. The ERDN originates from Poland in 2002, and since then, the network has expanded such that in 2009 it aggregated rural researchers from around 20 European countries. The empirical material of this paper consists of a web survey directed at participants of ERDN. The survey was carried out in the spring of 2009. The results suggest that the hard-core group of actors is rather small, but they have managed to create and maintain an alive and innovative network of rural researchers. Involvement among the participants seems to have increased during the years, although there are many of those who just “visit” the meetings only once. So far, the network has been relative easy to manage due to the relatively small number of participants but, however, the possible expansion of the network may lead to a need for a new kind of organizational structure. According to opinions of ERDN participants, the greatest future challenges for the network are connected to ideas on even more profound forms of international research cooperation and accomplishment of research applications and proposals.


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