Data Science newsletter – August 2, 2018

Newsletter features journalism, research papers, events, tools/software, and jobs for August 2, 2018


Data Science News

Microsoft treehouses: Photos, tour, what it’s like

Business Insider, Matt Weinberger


While Amazon and Apple are making much noise about their new headquarters, Microsoft is quietly revamping its Redmond headquarters to support its growth.

Speaking of growth, I got to tour the treehouses that Microsoft opened for its employees last year , where they can meet, chat, or just generally catch some rays. They’re located right near the buildings where top Microsoft execs like CEO Satya Nadella have their offices, but any employee can use them.

They’re WiFi equipped, with power outlets everywhere. And they’re a very neat little employee perk.

R Generation: 25 Years of R

R-bloggers, Revolutions, David Smith


The August 2018 issue of Significance Magazine includes a retrospective feature on the R language. (I suggest reading the PDF version, also available for free access.) The article by Nick Thieme looks back at the 25 years since the R language was first conceived at Auckland University in 1992. It follows the history of R through the first public announcement in 1993, its first release as open source software in 1995, the formation of the R Core Group and the launch of CRAN in 1997, and the release of R version 1.0.0 on February 29, 2000.

AI Scientists Call Out the Great Dangers of Media’s Tech Coverage

Observer, Sissi Cao


Despite a record volume of AI content, however, scientists working on this trendy front don’t necessarily believe that the public is better informed.

“I have read many pretty horrible coverages—either because they were making unsubstantiated claims of the technology or its consequences—about machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Kyunghyun Cho, a scientist of Facebook artificial intelligence (AI) research and a data science professor at New York University, told Observer.

Trump’s pick to head White House science office gets good reviews

Science, David Malakoff


The long wait for a White House science adviser is over. President Donald Trump announced today that he intends to nominate meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, a university administrator and former vice-chair of the governing board of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), to be director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The OSTP director traditionally, but not always, also holds the title of the president’s science adviser.

The move caps a search process of record-setting length—nearly 560 days, double the longest time taken by any other modern president to name an OSTP director. Many in the research community had lamented the delay. But the wait may have been worth it: Droegemeier, a respected veteran of the Washington, D.C., policymaking scene, is getting positive reviews from science and university groups.

“He’s a very good pick. … He has experience speaking science to power,” says environmental policy expert John Holdren, who served as science adviser under former President Barack Obama and is now at Harvard University. “I expect he’ll be energetic in defending the R&D budget and climate change research in particular.”

Biometrics entering a new era in healthcare

Healthcare IT News, Bill Siwicki


Biometrics technologies such as fingerprint scanners, palm vein readers, facial recognition tech, iris scanners and others, have long held promise to tighten up identification of patients and employees.

This would help reliably verify that patients are who they say they are, guarantee caregivers are working with the proper medical and demographic information, and ensure only the proper employees have access to the right information.

But biometrics technologies have been slow to catch on in healthcare. Sure, many hospitals and clinics have implemented some basic tech, but biometrics is not yet fully in the mainstream of healthcare practices. And it will still take some time and effort on the part of healthcare CISOs and biometrics technology vendors to get the tech swimming in the mainstream.

NSF backs strategy to reconstruct cancer cells’ evolution

Rice University News & Media


The National Science Foundation has awarded two grants for a combined $1.5 million to Rice University computational biologist Luay Nakhleh to expand big data techniques in the fight against cancer and to scale up methods that infer connections between evolutionary pathways.

While the projects use similar strategies to track evolutionary pathways, one focuses on species-level analysis, while the other drops down to the level of single cells.

Nakhleh’s research group specializes in computational research related to evolution and develops big-data tools that use genetic data to find previously unknown connections between species. Using a statistical technique called inference, the team can estimate the probability of that genes in one species are related to genes in another.

Computer simulations predict the spread of HIV

Los Alamos National Laboratory


Genetic signatures trace origin of infection and its potential path through populations, allowing state health departments to track the disease

Curious about ⁦@Dereklowe⁩’s take on this work

Twitter, Carolyn Bertozzi and Derek Lowe


It’s nearly to the point where I’m throwing up my hands at the neural-network papers. Extremely hard to evaluate them against each other. Is it great? Is it average? Who knows?

Google search will now highlight useful data journalism from news stories

The Verge, Dami Lee


Google is working with publishers to make it easier to view data journalism in search results, as announced on its blog today. It’s one of the steps Google News Initiative is taking to make data journalism more visible, with the field quickly growing across media. Over half of all newsrooms now have dedicated data journalists, and this feature aims to pinpoint the most useful results from pages containing data tables.

“Data journalism takes many forms, and it’s not always clear from the headline that there is potentially useful data within that document or story,” Google News Lab’s Simon Rogers wrote in today’s blog post. “It isn’t always easy for Google Search to detect and understand tables of data to surface the most relevant results.”

African Master’s In Machine Intelligence

Facebook Research


Facebook is pleased to announce its support for the creation of a new master’s degree program “African Masters in Machine Intelligence” at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). As part of our ongoing commitment and investment in supporting communities across the continent, this program will bring together some of the most talented African graduate students to pursue research and engineering careers in machine learning. We know creativity and excellence exists across the whole of Africa, and in this multi-year commitment, Facebook will provide funding of $4M as well as world-leading researchers from our labs in New York and California (USA), Montreal (Canada) and Paris (France) to directly support the training and education of these master’s students.

How will voice assistants affect children’s behaviour? Here’s what we still don’t know

The Ambient, Meeri Kim


Earlier this year, a group of child development and privacy advocates released a statement urging parents not to purchase the new Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition, as it poses “significant threats to children’s well-being and privacy.” The same day, two lawmakers sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos asking what steps the company was taking to ensure the product would not negatively affect children’s development.

The same group – Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a US coalition of healthcare professionals, educators, advocacy groups, and concerned parents – previously called on Mattel to stop production of Aristotle, an Amazon Echo-type listening and talking device for babies and young children. In October 2017, Mattel announced it had cancelled plans to sell the product as a result of the backlash.

Despite the outcry from groups like the CCFC, few research studies have focused on the relationship between kids and home-based voice assistants. Are Amazon Echo and Google Home high-tech educational tools or marketing devices designed to spy on families? Do they truly pose a threat to our children? Many questions like these still remain unanswered, about the impact of such technology on early learning, development and wellbeing.

‘Blurred face’ news anonymity gets an artificial intelligence spin

Simon Fraser University, University Communications


A research team from SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) has come up with a way to replace the use of ‘blurring’ faces in news reports when anonymity is needed. The team’s method uses artificial intelligence (AI) techniques that aim to improve visuals while amplifying emotions tied to the story.

SIAT professors Steve DiPaola and Kate Hennessy, together with Taylor Owen from UBC’s journalism school, received a Google/Knight Foundation grant to carry out the research. They presented the work to international journalists at a Journalism 360 demo event honoring grantees in New York on July 24, and the next day at a full conference held across the street from the New York Times headquarters.

“Our goal is to create a working technique that would be much better at conveying emotional and knowledge information than current anonymization techniques,” says DiPaola, a pioneer in AI/VR facial recognition processes.

Extra Extra

Good overview in The New Yorker of how climate change is contributing to the summer weather pattern in the US by splitting the jet stream into two components, leaving part of the US parched and the other drenched.

Paolo Parigi is a sociologist trying to figure out how the gig economy impacts the social construction of trust. He finds that there is more overall trust – we trust strangers to drive us around in their cars, we sleep in their beds, and we give them house keys so they can walk our precious poodles. But our trust is shallow, leaving us lonely.

If you let a researcher or company put a small data server in your home, could you do the environment a favor by using the excess heat to warm your house?

If you leave academia, you are not failing. Though I am but one data point, my blood pressure dropped nearly 15 points after settling into my new, fast-paced startup job.

Bharat Anand to take over as Harvard’s vice provost for advances in learning

Harvard Gazette


Harvard’s efforts to leverage technology to create more effective teaching tools, strategies, and resources will have a new leader this fall, with the appointment of Harvard Business School Professor Bharat Anand as the University’s new vice provost for advances in learning (VPAL).

Anand, the Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration, will take over in October from Peter Bol, the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages, who has held the post since its launch five years ago. Bol, a scholar of Chinese history, plans to return to teaching and research.

Since 2013, Anand has been the faculty chair of HBX, the Harvard Business School digital learning initiative that he helped to create. Anand said that he is looking forward to the challenge and opportunities of his University-wide role.

3 Ways AI Is Getting More Emotional

Harvard Business Review, Sophie Kleber


In January of 2018, Annette Zimmermann, vice president of research at Gartner, proclaimed: “By 2022, your personal device will know more about your emotional state than your own family.” Just two months later, a landmark study from the University of Ohio claimed that their algorithm was now better at detecting emotions than people are.

AI systems and devices will soon recognize, interpret, process, and simulate human emotions. A combination of facial analysis, voice pattern analysis, and deep learning can already decode human emotions for market research and political polling purposes. With companies like Affectiva, BeyondVerbal and Sensay providing plug-and-play sentiment analysis software, the affective computing market is estimated to grow to $41 billion by 2022, as firms like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple race to decode their users’ emotions.


IEEE International Conference on Data Science and Advanced Analytics



Turin, Italy October 1-4. “DSAA is intended to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of data science and analytics, as an alternative to the highly specialized disciplinary conferences.” [$$$]

IRIS Data Summit 2018

University of Michigan, Institute for Research on Innovation and Science


Ann Arbor, MI October 15-16. Hosted by the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science at University of Michigan. [free, registration required]


Call for Papers – WISE Conference 2018

The Workshop on Information Systems and Economics (WISE) is the premier academic research forum for the discussion of information systems issues through the lens of economics. Workshop will December 16-18 in San Francisco.

Call for Workshops and Tutorials – LDK 2019 – 2nd Conference on Language, Data and Knowledge

Conference is 20-22 May 2019 in Leipzig, Germany. Deadline for proposal submissions is October 15.

Full-time, non-tenured academic positions

Research Software Engineer

Imperial College London; London, England

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