Data Science newsletter – March 19, 2020

Data Science Newsletter features journalism, research papers, events, tools/software, and jobs for March 19, 2020


Data Science News

How institutions are approaching scientific research during COVID-19

Inside Higher Ed, Colleen Flaherty


Move them online: colleges and universities have been giving professors clear guidance on what to do with their classes during COVID-19, if not quite how to do it. But the directives on what to do with scientific research and equipment-heavy lab work have been much less clear, leaving faculty members, students and some staff members scrambling to adapt to social distancing measures.

“I think there’s a lot of angst, unknowns and anxiety, given that these labs rely on people — students, postdocs and research assistants,” said Tobin Smith, vice president for policy at the Association of American Universities. “What do you do in an environment where people are essentially being encouraged to stay home and telework?”

The European Commission offers significant support to Europe’s AI excellence

EurekAlert! Science News, Aalto University


The ELISE proposal has been selected to enter Grant Agreement Preparation with top scores awarded among all proposals for this round, which is testament to the fact that machine learning is at the core of modern AI research, and the main driver in this thriving research field.

“The ELISE project proposal builds upon the ELLIS organization which is excellence-driven and open, as that is what Europe needs; we play for the ‘team Europe'”, says Samuel Kaski, director of the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence FCAI and professor at Aalto University, who is also the principal investigator of the proposal.

arXiv announces its first executive director

Cornell University, blog


arXiv, the world’s leading source of open access scientific research, is pleased to welcome Dr. Eleonora Presani as its first executive director.

Dr. Presani earned her PhD in astroparticle physics at the University of Amsterdam and then completed her postdoc at CERN, where she worked remotely on the International Space Station’s AMS02 instrument. After that, she was publisher at Elsevier for high energy physics journals, and her projects included SCOAP3, SoftwareX, and Physics of the Dark Universe. In the last four years her career shifted to digital product development, working as Product Manager in Scopus.

We May Be In This for the Long Haul…

Jason Kottke


This is an excellent but extremely sobering read: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand, a 20-page paper by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team (and a few other organizations, including the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling). … Update · Mar 18 … The lead author of the Imperial College paper, Neil Ferguson, has likely contracted COVID-19.

A couple of recent articles on open science and replication studies worth a read

Twitter, Katherine Ognyanova


  • An Agenda for Open Science in Communication in JComm:
  • Design and Analysis of Replication Studies in ORM:

  • Niall Ferguson’s Networld

    YouTube, PBS


    “In this groundbreaking new series hosted by Niall Ferguson and inspired by his bestselling book The Square and the Tower, Ferguson visits network theorists, social scientists and data analysts to explore the history of social networks. From the Reformation and 17th century witch-hunting, through the American Revolution and to the nightmare visions of Orwell’s 1984, Ferguson explores the intersection of social media, technology and the spread of cultural movements. Reviewing classic experiments and cutting-edge research, Ferguson demonstrates how human behavior, disruptive technology and profit can energize ideas and communication, ultimately changing the world.”

    Is It Time to Postpone the 2020 Census?

    Urban Institute, Robert Santos and Diana Elliott


    Although the decennial census is mandated by the Constitution, the extreme challenges raised by the pandemic may warrant an unprecedented delay to protect the census’s accuracy. These challenges include:

  • Difficulty finding and retaining enumerators

  • upstream//data 2.0.7 — A Story

    Jer Thorp


    … When I got in, the octopus was waiting for me. He had, my colleagues told me later, come out of his den the moment I’d dropped into the tank. I descended down beside him. What a treat it was to get the time just to look for a moment at this animal, to see it sitting still. His skin, I could see, was constantly changing colour and texture. Even when it looked to be static, it wasn’t; there were little bumps and ridges forming and going away. I looked for a moment into his giant eye. And then I plucked. With each worm I removed he’d move a bit closer to me. By the third he had one arm on my leg. I rested myself down on the rocks. The octopus climbed into my lap. The octopus climbed into my lap. I giggled into my regulator, bubbles of joy streaming up to the surface. An arm reached up to feel my mask. It wound around behind my head, to the bare skin it could find – on the back of my neck. I could feel the suckers, hundreds of them at the tip of his arm. He was smelling me, tasting me, sensing me in some way that we non-octopods with our clumsy fingers will never understand.

    Social distancing and quarantine is hard for everybody – this review shows that quarantine is hard on mental health, with many people displaying symptoms of post-traumatic stress and anger

    Twitter, Patrick Mineault


    Reminder to take it easy – don’t expect to be as productive as normal. Focus on the basics of mental hygiene. 1) quality sleep (get up and go to sleep at consistent times, limit caffeine in afternoons, get some sunlight during daytime, stay off of devices before bed) [thread]

    Sigh. Developed a slight dry but persistent cough yesterday and self isolated even though I felt fine. Then developed high fever at 4am today. There is a lot of COVID-19 in Westminster.

    Twitter, Neil Ferguson


    Thank you all so much for your kind messages! I am doing OK – feeling a bit grotty, but in front of my computer [thread]

    To protect nation from COVID-19, release inmates who pose no threat

    USA Today Opinion, Brendan Saloner and Sachini Bandara


    Prison populations are among the most vulnerable. Focus on older and nonviolent offenders to minimize health risk to facilities and surrounding communities.

    Coronavirus news is dominating readers’ attention

    Vox, Recode, Rani Molla


    If you feel like you’ve been glued to the news lately, you’re not alone. We’re collectively reading much more news during the novel coronavirus pandemic than normal, according to new publisher traffic data.

    Our thirst for information — and entertainment — makes sense. The coronavirus outbreak is a vast and urgent topic, and new developments about the science behind the outbreak as well as society’s response to it are unfolding on an hourly basis. So we’re all looking for information and context about it in this time of uncertainty.

    My lab group met to chart our response to COVID-19. Here’s what we learned

    Science, Letters to Young Scientists, Jay Van Bavel


    The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired a wave of panic and distress as universities close, students are dislocated, careers are disrupted, and professors scramble to cover their teaching and research obligations. The pressure is compounded by more personal concerns—feelings of social isolation, coping with family and friends who are seriously ill or at-risk, and struggling to juggle child care during school closures. I’m a professor in New York City—a COVID-19 hotspot—and I’ve spent much of the past week sorting through how I should respond.

    I started by canceling talks and conferences, rescheduling guest speakers, and shifting my teaching to reach 300 students online. I put an end to my lab meeting, which is usually attended by up to 20 students and postdocs, and instead invited my core lab group—one postdoc and four Ph.D. students—to a small meeting to map our way through the impending crisis.

    As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads, so does misinformation on social media

    NPR, Michigan Radio, Stateside


    As the cases of COVID-19 continue to climb, public health officials are calling for “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus. Schools are being shut down, large events cancelled, and an increasing number of organizations are asking employees to work remotely.

    As people are spending more time alone, social media can be a place to gather, connect, and share information. But as stress runs high and half-truths circulates, do these platforms carry their own kind of risk?

    Cliff Lampe, professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, said that it’s important to seek out information about the pandemic from reliable sources. Those include epidemiologists and doctors who specialize in diseases like the novel coronavirus. When warranted, he said you can share updates and start dialogues with others online in a thoughtful way. [audio, 12:11]

    Social distancing prevents infections, but it can have unintended consequences

    Science, Greg Miller


    The effects of short-term social distancing haven’t been well studied, but several researchers—most of them scrambling to deal with disruptions to their own lives because of the coronavirus—recently took time to share some thoughts with ScienceInsider on the potential social and psychological impacts, and how to mitigate them.

    Tools & Resources

    Election News Pathways Methodology – American Trends Panel February 2020 survey methodology

    Pew Research Center, Journalism & Media


    “The American Trends Panel (ATP), created by Pew Research Center, is a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults. Panelists participate via self-administered web surveys. Panelists who do not have internet access at home are provided with a tablet and wireless internet connection. The panel is being managed by Ipsos.”

    “Data in the Election News Pathways project is drawn from the panel wave conducted Feb. 18 to March 2, 2020. A total of 10,300 panelists responded out of 11,036 who were sampled, for a response rate of 93%. This does not include six panelists who were removed from the data due to extremely high rates of refusal or straightlining. The cumulative response rate accounting for nonresponse to the recruitment surveys and attrition is 5%. The break-off rate among panelists who logged onto the survey and completed at least one item is 1.3%. The margin of sampling error for the full sample of 10,300 respondents is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.”

    Twitter dataset related to Covid-19/Coronavirus released!

    Medium, ISI MINDS


    The COVID-19 pandemic is a social emergency, as much as a medical one. The pandemic, which is growing out of control in most of the world’s countries, is straining health resources, economies, trust, and the fabric of society. To mitigate the spread, many countries and municipalities have instituted a patchwork of social distancing measures, including travel bans, quarantines, school closures, event cancellations and wholesale lockdowns. People around the world have turned to social media en masse for information about the pandemic, and also to express their feelings and opinions. To facilitate research into the social dimension of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are releasing to the research community a dataset containing tweets related to Twitter discussions about COVID-19. We hope that the data will enable the study of online conversation dynamics in the context of a global outbreak of unprecedented proportions and implications.


    Tenured and tenure track faculty positions

    Assistant/Associate Professor and Director of the Spatial Analysis & Visualization Initiative

    Pratt Institute, School of Information

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