The data science revolution is bringing unprecedented opportunities to social science research. Never before have we had such enormity and variety of data, from endless social media streams to every survey imaginable, from outputs of every conceivable sensor and wireless device to massive consumer databases. We are seeing data in every form, every level of granularity and quality. Social scientists’ newest challenge is to generate insight from the data for the political, economic and social wellbeing of individuals and our society. The issues include developing tools and methods to process and understand the data, theoretical frameworks for the integration of new insight from such massive data to existing knowledge in social sciences, the applicability of new insight to appropriate contexts and new ethical considerations that are emerging in this age of Big Data.
The MIDAS Social Science Research Hub supports two initial research projects through our Challenge Initiative. One project, ” Computational Approaches for the Construction of Novel Macroeconomic Data,” led by Matthew Shapiro of the Department of Economics and Institute for Social Research, will create a versatile and user-friendly system allowing economists to process and analyze massive online data that are tailored to their research questions and expertise. The other project, “A Social Science Collaboration for Research on Communication and Learning based upon Big Data,” led by Michael Traugott of the Institute for Social Research, will carry out a few parallel projects with the unifying theme of developing tools and methods to integrate geospatial, social media and spatial data to address research and methodological questions in social and political sciences.
Building on these two initial research areas, the Hub hopes to achieve the following long-term goals:
- Disseminate tools and methods, as soon as they become available, to empower campus-wide data-intensive social science research.
- Build a collaborative network of social science researchers that will propel UM to the forefront of transportation research in the nation.
- Form industry partnerships and transform research findings into social, political and economic insights that will inform businesses, policymakers and public services.
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