Coming from a social science background, I have had very limited exposure to data science. I was therefore excited to learn about the emerging field of computational social science and the Summer Institute in Computational Social Science (SICSS) presented the right opportunity. I applied to the 2019 SICSS and I was accepted for the Cape Town partner site. I went in not knowing what to expect but by the end of the first day I knew the experience at the two-week Summer Institute was going to be truly worthwhile.
The baton was passed to the University of Amsterdam for the fifth addition of IC2S2 with the core conference taking place between 18-20 July.
Text is everywhere, and everything is text. More textual data than ever before are available to computational social scientists—be it in the form of digitized books, communication traces on social media platforms, or digital scientific articles. Researchers in academia and industry increasingly use text data to understand human behavior and to measure patterns in language. Techniques from natural language processing have created a fertile soil to perform these tasks and to make inferences based on text data on a large scale.
Academics face various pressures, from research teaching and administrative duties. The best way to create a positive culture in academia is to share. However, it may sometimes feel like there is no incentive to share teaching materials, if I have spent so many hours developing this work, why should I just hand it over to someone, “what’s in it for me?”
It’s all about incentives. The current academic ecosystem incentivises publication in high impact factor journals and grant capture above all else, but there is more to being an academic than producing journal articles and winning grants. Luckily there are an increasing number of initiatives that are helping academics get credit for more of the work they do and increase their broader impact. This post rounds up some of the most interesting efforts.
Here at SAGE Ocean, we’ve been collecting data on the landscape of tools for computational social science. While looking through the data, we found an incredible variety, from resources to aid crowdsourcing to text analysis to social media analysis. Despite this diversity at the technical level of the tools, we found a persistent lack of diversity in terms of who built these tools.
Today, researchers are using LinkedIn data in a variety of ways: to find and recruit participants for research and experiments (Using Facebook and LinkedIn to Recruit Nurses for an Online Survey), to analyze how the features of this network affect people’s behavior and identity or how data is used for hiring and recruiting purposes, or most often to enrich other data sources with publicly available information from selected LinkedIn profiles (Examining the Career Trajectories of Nonprofit Executive Leaders, The Tech Industry Meets Presidential Politics: Explaining the Democratic Party’s Technological Advantage in Electoral Campaigning).
The beginning of term is nearing. You’re teaching a new module on Computational Social Science (CSS). The field is developing rapidly and so are best practices around teaching the theory, methods and techniques to students.
Where do you start when you’re putting together your teaching materials? Do you visit the websites and blogs of academics who are experienced in teaching CSS to look for resources? Do you search online for syllabi, reading lists and tutorials? Maybe you scour YouTube for videos to include in your slides?
Together with a group of UK academics, the SAGE Ocean team have been digging into where academics go to find teaching materials and what the barriers are for academics who want to share, reuse and give and get credit for the materials they produce for teaching. This post includes thoughts from the group on what’s needed to promote a stronger culture of sharing teaching materials in CSS. And we’ve curated a list of our favorite resources for you too!
I would argue that computational social science necessitates collaboration, and indeed is tamed by it. A collaborative approach provides the necessary structure, goals, and a critical approach to research methods. In response to the question of what computational social science has helped me achieve, it may seem obvious to mention the concrete projects, the outputs, the measurable outcomes. However, for me computational social science has achieved something more substantial and enduring—a new way of working, a new way of thinking, and a new kind of enthusiasm for research.
SAGE Research Methods has launched a new Data Science video collection, with hours of educational material for researchers of all levels and backgrounds.