Tag Archives: science

Scientists and online dating

Interesting BostonGlobe article “Data mining the heart. What scientists are learning from online dating”.

As dating interactions have moved from the privacy of bars and social gatherings to the digital world of websites and e-mails, they are generating an unprecedented trove of data about how the initial phases of romance unfold. Most research is done on OkCupid, that now publishes a blog, OKTrends, that delves into its database of more than 1 million users to analyze their interactions.

Some findings reported in the article:

Men get more responses from women if they don’t smile in their profile pictures, and women find most men below average in attractiveness — but write to them anyway.

A man needs to make several extra tens of thousands of dollars to compensate for being an inch shorter, and that race matters more than people admit.

The company found that while men rate women’s attractiveness in an even curve — most women being average — two-thirds of men’s messages go to the best-looking third of the women. Women, on the other hand, are more harsh on men, rating the majority as below average, but are more likely than men to send messages to people they don’t find attractive.

In their online profiles, for instance, all users add an average of two inches to their height and a 20 percent raise in salary.

The data debunk some dating myths. In analyzing 7,000 user photos, the company found that women get more male attention when they flirt into the camera or smile, while men, surprisingly, did better when they looked away from the camera and didn’t smile. Even more surprising, not showing their face in their photos didn’t affect the number of messages users received.

Today “Facebooking Won’t Affect Your Grades”, Study Finds. Tomorrow “Facebooking Affects Your Grades”, study will find.

Every research finding is so ephemeral nowadays. Maybe what we are doing is not science after all? Or maybe it was like this even years ago but simply it was slower, i.e. it took 20 years to get a new study confirming or not the previous one. Or better, every new study is just a small contribution in an ocean of possibilities and many of them will crystallize over time into “our comprehension of the Reality”…

From Facebooking Won’t Affect Your Grades, Study Finds. At Least Until Next Month’s Study Tells You It Will

It seems like every week there’s a new study about whether or not the sky is falling because of Facebook and other Web sites of its ilk. Now the University of New Hampshire offers new research that falls squarely in the sky-is-not-falling category, at least not when it comes to the impact of social media on students’ grades.
A survey of 1,127 University of New Hampshire students pursuing various majors found no link between how much time they spend Facebooking, tweeting, and YouTubing and how well they do in college.
The breakdown: 63 percent of heavy social-media users got high grades, compared with 65 percent of light users. The findings held up for academic slouches, too. Thirty-seven percent of heavy users got lower grades, compared with 35 percent of light users.
The university’s message: “Parents worried that their college students are spending too much time on Facebook and other social-networking sites and not enough time hitting the books can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Or not.
In April, a researcher at Ohio State University found that students who use Facebook reported earning lower grade-point averages than nonusers of the social-networking service. Then again, the researcher said in an interview with The Chronicle that she didn’t have enough data to determine whether Facebook use causes students to do poorly.
What research can prove is that when those students get married there’s a good chance Facebook might help cause their divorce. At least that’s the story until next month, when someone else is bound to tell us how Facebook is saving relationships.
Oh wait, someone already did.

The Elsevier Grand Challenge – Knowledge Enhancement in the Life Sciences

Cross-posted on my blog on nature.com and surely of interest for my friends of sci.bzaar.net.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that “the first place winner will be awarded a cash prize of US$35,000 and the second place winner a cash prize of US$15,000.”

The Elsevier Grand Challenge: Knowledge Enhancement in the Life Sciences is a contest created to improve the way scientific information is communicated and used. The contest invites members of the scientific community to describe and prototype a tool to improve the interpretation and identification of meaning in (online) journals and text databases relating to the life sciences. Specifically we are looking for new ways to:

  1. improve the process/methods/results of creating, reviewing and editing scientific content
  2. interpret, visualize or connect the knowledge more effectively, and/or
  3. provide tools/ideas for measuring the impact of these improvements.

While the traditional functions of peer-review, quality control, dissemination and archiving remain at the heart of scientific publishing, it is clear that new technologies are creating opportunities to facilitate interpretation of data. In initiating the Elsevier Grand Challenge, we hope to interact with the scientific community to discuss changing modes of publishing and knowledge sharing with innovative groups who are interested in changing the way science is published. The objective is to generate useful new ideas that could have a widespread impact on scientific publishing in general.

Abstracts are now invited. Submissions will close on July 15th, 2008.

(via Paolo Avesani)

Science2.0 and the Scientific Bzaar: collective brainstorming for better research

Saturday I participated in Sci(Bzaar)Net, an event organized by Gianandrea Giacoma (thanks Gian!) for discussing about how we can (in Italy) make use of the Internet for a better spreading, production and management of scientific knowledge.

(photo from Luca Mascaro, released under CC-BY-SA)

There were around 40 people and 15 presentations of 10 minutes each plus 10 minutes discussion and, at the end, the global brainstorming.

My presentation was titled “Science2.0 or How happy is a researcher discovering the existence of Yet Another Social Network for Science?” and I was playing the devil’s advocate on why researchers didn’t embrace in mass Web2.0 tools for their daily activity. Actually I understood I had to speak for 20 minutes so I prepared the slides accordingly but then I was told it was only 10 minutes so I had to run a lot (speaking at double pace!), the alternative could have been just to present one slide every two but I choose the “speak very very fast” strategy. You can find my presentation on slideshare or embedded here below, I would be very happy to receive feedback! It is released under CC-BY-SA so feel free to reuse it.

I got many interesting points which I try to briefly summarize in the following. But first photos from Flickr tagged as sci(bzaar)net and slides from Slideshare tagged as sci(bzaar)net.

One thing I noticed is that there were no professors and, since we like to think big, no University rectors! So I launch a contest: the first one who convinces a rector of an Italian University to open a blog gets a weekend in Trento, hosted by me, everything included! Can you handle that? Come on, go and find the blogging rector!

I didn’t follow too much the first presentations because I was finishing mine (my bad!). The first one I was able to follow was by Federico Bo and it was a very interesting survey about how Italian universities are using Web2.0 tools: touchscreens, webtv, blog aggregators, second life, e-catalunya, moodle, podcasting, social bookmarking, … Check the presentation by Federico.

Another interesting presentation was by Paolo Guglielmoni: “Culture as a virus” claiming that viral marketing and culture are not enemies, they never were in history and they are not now. He cited Booktrailers as a creative example of this. Still, how can I make my research into a viral meme is not an easy question.
The most amazing presentation was by Folletto who is a master in making visually impressive and semantically profound presentations, this one was titled “Paralipomeni dell’Oggettivazione Sociale” (Paralipomeni of Social Objectivism) and you can see it on slideshare.

It was great to meet again Bonaria, who is becoming an expert on library2.0 and Matteo Brunati who is trying to import the innocentive model in Italy with fullout and to meet a lot of interesting people I didn’t know yet. I also met David Orban, of openspime fame, which I managed to invite for a talk in Trento, probably on June 6th.

The final brainstorming was very interesting as well. Overall I think that, at least in Italy, for changing how researchers approach Web2.0 tools some push from the top is needed. It is not enough to have a push from the bottom (normal people like me and the other ones who met in Milan for sci.bzaar.net). Of course from the bottom we can try to show the light to people on top. For example I think the European Union now asks that every funded project must have a public Web page with its own domain, possibly a blog and surely a repository of produced documents and reports. It also somehow encourages to release the software as Free Software. This is a push from the top which, I think, is going to have a much higher impact than anything the sci.bzaarers can never achieve from the bottom.

Idea I see in my notes that I need to write down somewhere: write something about “the long tail of trust”.

Last thing I want to mention is the use of a human counter for signaling the passing by of time. On the back of the room, just in front of the speaker it was projected a previously recorded very big image of one of the guy (forgot the name!) Dario Violi with a red ball on top of it for every minute already passed. When the time limit was approaching, the face was becoming more and more sclerotic and when the 10 minutes were over, it was going totally mad and it was impossible for the speaker to keep speaking, it was too funny and disturbing. A very clever way to keep speaker in their time slot! I need to use it if/when I organize a conference!

Thanks to Flickr I also discovered that I move a lot the hands while speaking ;)

And thanks again Gian for organizing a great event!

Claerbout’s Principle at Free Software Conference

This weekend Trento hosted the Italian Free Software Conference
. I could attend only friday because then I went to Milano for sci.bzaar.net (report in next post).
There was a very interesting presentation by Emanuele Somma about Bank of Italy and their internal use and infiltration of Free Software.
He cited the paper “Reproducible Econometric Research (A Critical Review of the State of the Art)” in which the authors, Roger Koenker, Achim Zeileis, cite Buckheit and Donoho (2005) citing what de Leeuw (2001) has called Claerbout’s Principle:

An article about computational science in a scientific publication is not the scholarship itself, it is merely advertising of the scholarship. The actual scholarship is the complete software development environment and the complete set of instructions which generated the figures.

Koenker and Zeileis go on reporting about scholars in economics have somehow turned into programmers:

The transition of econometrics from a handicraft industry (Wilson, 1973, Goldberger, 2004) to the modern sweatshop of globally interconnected computers has been a boon to productivity and innovation, but sometimes seems to be a curse. Who among us expected to be in the “software development” business? And yet many of us find ourselves precisely in this position, and those who are not, probably should be. As we will argue below, software development is no longer something that should be left to specialized commercial developers, but instead should be an integral part of the artisanal research process. Effective communication of research depends crucially on documentation and distribution of related software and data.

So their contribution:

Our main contention is that recent software developments, notably in the open-source community, make it much easier to achieve and distribute reproducible

Sci(entific) B(a)zaar Net(work): sci.bzaar.net, May 17, 2008 in Milan

Sci Bzaar logoNext Saturday (May 17th, 2008) I’ll be in Milan at the Politechnic School of Design for sci.bzaar.net.
With some friends of bzaar.net and few people I still don’t know, we will brainstorm and discuss about how Web2.0 dynamics can be adapted and imported into science. A sort of hybrid between a BarCamp, a traditional event and a Pecha Kucha, about science and research. Sweet!
The title of my talk will be “How much is a researcher happy discovering the existence of Yet Another Social Network for Science?”.