Social Science Computer Review

Volume 27, No. 4

Winter 2009




Guest editorial: Special issue on e-Social Science /    Peter Halfpenny and Rob Procter


Crisis in a Networked World: Features of Computer-Mediated Communication / Leysia Palen, Sarah Viewega, Sophia Liu, Amanda Lee Hughes & Jeannette Sutton

Abstract. Crises and disasters have micro and macro social arrangements that differ from routine situations, as the field of disaster studies has described over its 100-year history. With increasingly pervasive information and communications technology (ICT) and a changing political arena where terrorism is perceived as a major threat, the attention to crisis is high. Some of these new features of social life have created changes in disaster response that we are only beginning to understand. The University of Colorado is establishing an area of sociologically-informed research and ICT development in crisis informatics. In this paper, we report on research that examines features of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and information sharing activity during the April 16, 2007 crisis at Virginia Tech by members of the public, and consider some of the consequences that these expanded ICT-supported social interactions have on emergency response.


Social Network Services as Data Sources and Platforms for e-Researching Social Networks / Robert Ackland

Abstract: Social network services such as Facebook provide new data for social science research into, for example, the role of individual characteristics in friendship formation and the diffusion of tastes in social networks. This paper assesses the potential of social network services for social science research in two ways. First, it is argued that social scientists conduct hyperlink analysis differently to applied physicists and researchers from the library and information sciences, and face constraints (relating to theory, methods and availability of appropriate tools) that are not encountered in the other disciplinary approaches. However, the constraints regarding theory and methods are less likely to be faced by researchers of online social networks, and for this reason, the rise of Facebook and other similar services is a potential boon for empirical social scientists interested in networks. The second part of the paper focuses specifically on the availability of research tools, and it is argued that social network services may eventually serve as e-Research platforms for delivering social network analysis tools.


MoSeS: A Grid-enabled Spatial Decision Support System / Mark Birkin, Andy Turner, Belinda Wu, Paul Townend, Junaid Arshad & Jie Xu

Abstract.  We present an architecture for simulation modeling using the resources of grid computing.  The use of the grid provides access to the substantial data storage and processing power which are necessary to translate such models from computational tools into genuine planning aids.  As well as providing access to virtualized compute resources, the architecture allows customized applications to meet the needs of an array of potential user organizations. A number of key obstacles in the deployment and integration of e-Science services are identified.  These include the high computational costs of simulation modeling at the micro-scale for typical “what if” scenario questions in research and policy settings; the management and technical issues relating to security in licensing common data sources; socio-cultural, legal and administrative restrictions on the privacy of individual-level response data; and the slow development and lack of uptake of agreed standards such as JSR-168 compliant portlets in the construction of useable applications


Supporting Systematic Reviews using Text Mining / Sophia Ananiadou, Naoaki Okazaki, Rob Procter, Brian Rea & James Thomas

Abstract. In this paper we describe how we are using text mining solutions to enhance the production of systematic reviews. The aims of this collaborative project are the development of a text mining framework to support systematic reviews and the provision of a service exemplar serving as a testbed for deriving requirements for the development of more generally applicable text mining tools and services.


Mapping for the Masses: Accessing Web 2.0 through Crowdsourcing / Andrew Hudson-Smith, Michael Batty, Andrew Crooks & Richard Milton

Abstract. We describe how we are harnessing the power of Web 2.0 technologies to create new approaches to collecting, mapping and sharing geo-coded data. We begin with GMapCreator which lets users fashion new maps using Google Maps as a base. We then describe MapTube which enables users to archive maps and demonstrate how it can be used in a variety of contexts to share map information, to put existing maps into a form that can be shared, and to create new maps from the bottom up using a combination of crowdcasting, crowdsourcing and traditional broadcasting. We conclude by arguing that such tools are helping to define a neogeography which is essentially ‘mapping for the masses’, while noting that there are many issues of quality, accuracy, copyright and trust that will influence the impact of these tools will on map-based communication.


Enabling Quantitative Data Analysis through e-Infrastructure / Larry Tan, Paul Lambert, Ken Turner, Jesse Blum, Vernon Gayle, Simon Jones, Richard Sinnott & Guy Warner

Abstract. This paper discusses how quantitative data analysis in the social sciences can engage with and exploit an e-Infrastructure. We highlight how a number of activities which are central to quantitative data analysis, referred to as ‘data management’, can benefit from e-infrastructural support. We conclude by discussing how these issues are relevant to the Data Management through e-Social Science (DAMES) research Node, an ongoing project that aims to develop e-Infrastructural resources for quantitative data analysis in the social sciences.


e-Social Science and Evidence-Based Policy Assessment: Challenges and Solutions / Pete Edwards, John Farrington, Chris Mellish, Lorna Philip, Alison Chorley, Feikje Heilkema, Edoardo Pignotti, Richard Reid, Gary Polhill & Nick Gotts

Abstract The PolicyGrid project is exploring the role of Grid, Semantic Web and Web 2.0 technologies to support e-Social Science, with particular emphasis on tools to facilitate evidence-based policy making. In this paper we discuss the challenges associated with construction of a provenance framework to support evidence-based policy assessment. We then discuss ourSpaces, a virtual research environment for e-Social Science that uses the Web 2.0 paradigm as well as Semantic Grid technologies, and which provides researchers with facilities for management of digital resources using a novel natural language interface.


Giving Them Something to Hate: Using Prototypes as a Vehicle for Early Engagement in the Creation of Virtual Organisations / Jenny Ure, Frank Rakebrandt, Sharon Lloyd, Ali Khanban, Rob Procter, Stuart Anderson, Janet Hanley, Mark Hartswood, Claudia Pagliari, Brian McKinstry, Alex Tarling, Gillian Kidd & Paddy Corscadden

Abstract: There are recognised problems in the course of requirements analysis and design for heterogeneous, distributed and dynamic systems. These are particularly evident where the context of future use is not yet clear to users, and where the implementation of these systems will reconfigure the costs, risks and benefits for stake-holding groups. The paper provides examples of the value of collaborative early prototyping with users in two such cases – the design of a HealthGrid portal, and a telehealth portal. We provide further examples of the value of the prototype as a vehicle for engagement, a sandbox for exploring emerging opportunities, a landscape for negotiating the reconfiguration of roles and resources, and as an early warning system for early identification of emerging problems likely to impact on usability.


Case Studies of e-Infrastructure Adoption / Franz Barjak, Julia Lane, Zack Kertcher, Meik Poschen, Rob Procter & Simon Robinson

Abstract. We report results from a study of e-Infrastructure adoption in the social sciences and humanities (SSH). We find that bridging barriers between computer and domain scientists is of key importance. In particular, SSH communities have to be accepted as being distinct and not suited to a “one size fits all” strategy of e-Infrastructure diffusion. Sustainability was also a core issue, whereas barriers to resource sharing could mostly be resolved with technological solutions, and skills and training activities are a reflection of the general “user dilemma”. Our recommendations to EU policy-makers point the way to promoting e-Infrastructure development and wider application in the social sciences and humanities.