All posts by fil

Radicchi Earns NSF CAREER Award

Filippo Radicchi
Filippo Radicchi

Congratulations to Filippo Radicchi, who has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a research and education program devoted to studying critical infrastructures from the perspective of network theory. The $500,000 grant will focus on how physical networks, such as transportation, water, food supply, communications, and power generation and transmission, interact to deliver their assets as efficiently as possible. Transactional and relational infrastructures, such as financial and trade networks, also enter into the equation to serve as the backbone for modern society. Read more…

Awards at CCS 2015

Optimized-IU_poster_5_botsThe CNetS poster “The Rise of Social Bots in Online Social Networks” by Emilio Ferrara, Onur Varol, Prashant Shiralkar, Clayton Davis, Filippo Menczer, and Alessandro Flammini won a Best Poster Award at CCS 2015. The poster was presented by Clayton Davis. The results will also appear in the paper “The Rise of Social Bots” to be published in Comm. ACM (in press, preprint).

The paper “Modularity and the Spread of Perturbations in Complex Dynamical Systems” by Artemy Kolchinsky, Alexander J. Gates and Luis M. Rocha, and the poster “Information Theoretic Structures of the French Revolution” by Alexander Barron, Simon DeDeo and Rebecca Spang won additional awards.

Finally, our former postdoctoral scientist Bruno Gonçalves (now tenured faculty member at Aix-Marseille Université) received a Junior Scientist Award from the Complex Systems Society for his contributions to the study of human social behavior from large-scale online attention and behavioral data. This is the second Junior Scientist Award for CNetS (the first was won by Filippo Radicchi).

Congratulations to the CNetS team!

 

On the cover of Neuron

Neuron coverWork by Olaf Sporns, YY Ahn, Alessandro Flammini and colleagues was featured on the cover of Neuron. In the paper Cooperative and Competitive Spreading Dynamics on the Human Connectome, the authors present a simulation model of spreading dynamics, previously applied in studies of social networks, that offers a new perspective on how the connectivity of the human brain constrains neural communication processes. Local perturbations in a social network can trigger global cascades (orange and turquoise epicenters in background image). In the case of the brain, the spreading of such cascades follows organized patterns that are shaped by anatomical connections revealing how interactions among functional brain networks may give rise to the integration of information.

CNetS researchers study sleeping beauties

476706_w296Why do some research papers remain dormant for years and then suddenly explode with great impact upon the scientific community? These “sleeping beauties” are the subject of a new study by CNetS researchers Qing KeEmilio FerraraFilippo Radicchi, and Alessandro Flammini published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study provides empirical evidence that a paper can truly be ahead of its time. A ‘premature’ topic may fail to attract attention even when it is introduced by authors who have already established a strong scientific reputation. The authors show that sleeping beauties can be dormant for many decades, and are more common than previously thought. The findings have been covered by media such as Nature and The New York Times. More…

CNetS team winner in LinkedIn Economic Graph Challenge

The CNetS team
The CNetS team

LinkedIn announced that YY Ahn and his team of Ph.D. students from the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research, including Yizhi Jing, Adazeh Nematzadeh, Jaehyuk Park, and Ian Wood, is one of the 11 winners of the LinkedIn Economic Graph Challenge.

Their project, “Forecasting large-scale industrial evolution,” aims to understand the macro-evolution of industries to track businesses and emerging skills. This data would be used to forecast economic trends and guide professionals toward promising career paths.

“This is a fascinating opportunity to study the network of industries and people with unprecedented details and size. All of us are very excited to collaborate with LinkedIn and our LinkedIn mentor, Mike Conover, who is a recent Informatics PhD alumnus, on this topic,” said Ahn. Read more…

Indiana University Network Science Institute

iuni
IUNI announcement in Science magazine

The new Indiana University Network Science Institute (IUNI) unites 100+ researchers at IU — building on their world-renowned multidisciplinary expertise toward further scientific understanding of the complex networked systems of our world. Through pioneering new approaches in mapping, representing, visualizing, modeling, and analyzing diverse complex networks across levels and disciplines, IUNI will lead the way. We keep track of the big picture — ever-changing and interconnected. We’re laying the groundwork for innovative research and discovery in the area of network science.

We’re hiring!

faculty hiring at cnets.indiana.edu

The School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC) at Indiana University Bloomington invites applications by Dec 1, 2014 for an asst/assoc/full professor position in complex networks and systems, in the Informatics Division, to begin in August 2015. The position is expected to be filled at the senior level, but outstanding junior candidates will be considered.

Applications are especially encouraged from established leaders, who will have opportunities for leadership roles in the Center for Complex Networks and Systems and in the ambitious, university-wide Network Science Institute that was recently announced.

Applicants should have an established record (senior level) or demonstrable potential for excellence (junior level) in research and teaching, and a Ph.D. in a relevant area, or (junior level) expected by 8/2015.

The SoIC is the first of its kind and among the largest in the country, with unsurpassed breadth. Its mission is to excel and lead in education, research, and outreach spanning and integrating the full breadth of computing and information technology. It includes Computer Science, Informatics, and Library and Information Science, with over 85 tenure-line faculty, 900 graduate students, and 1100 undergraduate majors. It offers Ph.D.s in Computer Science, Informatics, and Information Science.

The SoIC Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research currently has 10 faculty members with strong ties to several other units at Indiana University that pursue research in the field of Complex Systems, including Cognitive Science, Psychology, Physics, Sociology, Political Science, Biocomplexity, and Information Science. Center faculty research areas include complex information and social networks, data science, Web science, social computing, computational biology, robotics, computational intelligence, bio-inspired computing, large scale data modeling and simulation, and science of science & innovation. We are particularly interested in strengthening our emphasis on data-driven exploration and modeling of networks, social systems, and their dynamics.

Bloomington is a culturally thriving college town with a moderate cost of living and the amenities for an active lifestyle. IU is renowned for its top-ranked music school, high-performance computing and networking facilities, and performing and fine arts.

Radicchi wins first CSS junior scientific award

Filippo Radicchi at ECCS 2014
Filippo Radicchi at ECCS 2014

Congratulations to Filippo Radicchi for winning the First Junior Scientific Award from the Complex Systems Society (CCS), which unveiled the winners of the first CSS scientific awards in a packed plenary session at ECCS’14 in Lucca, Italy. CSS also honored Prof. Eugene Stanley with the Senior Scientific Award, and Dr. Giovanna Miritello with a second Junior Scientific Award. Quoting the nomination:

Filippo Radicchi is among the best young researchers in complex systems and networks, with contributions that span from theoretical studies of structural and dynamical properties of networks to analyses of large-scale empirical data about human behaviour and performance.

We could not agree more.

The Truth about Truthy

MegynKelly.jpg
The Truthy project was misrepresented in ‘The Kelly File’ and several other Fox News broadcasts. Public domain photo by MattGagnon via Wikimedia Commons.

For the past four years, researchers at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing have been studying the ways in which information spreads on social media networks such as Twitter. This basic research project is federally funded, like a large percentage of university research across the country.

The project, informally dubbed “Truthy,” makes use of complex computer models to analyze the sharing of information on social media to determine how popular sentiment, user influence, attention, social network structure, and other factors affect the manner in which information is disseminated. Additionally, an important goal of the Truthy project is to better understand how social media can be abused.

Since 25 Aug 2014, when a first misleading article was posted on a conservative blog, the Truthy project has come under criticism from some, including The Kelly File and Fox and Friends broadcasts by Fox News on 26 and 28 Aug 2014, who have misrepresented its goals. Contrary to these claims, the target is the study of the structural patterns of information diffusion. For example, an email sent simultaneously to a million addresses is likely spam, even if we have no automatic way to determine whether its content is true or false. The assumption behind the Truthy effort is that an understanding of the spreading patterns may facilitate the identification of abuse, independent from the nature or political color of the communication.

While the Truthy platform provides support to study the evolution of communication in all portions of the political spectrum, it is not informed by political partisanship. The machine learning algorithms used to identify suspicious patterns of information diffusion are entirely oblivious to the possibly political partisanship of the messages.

Read the facts below for a primer on Truthy. More detailed information can be found on the Truthy website and in our publications.

Timeline and updates:

8/28/2014: Despite the clarifications in this post, Fox News and others continued to perpetrate their attacks to our research project and to the PI personally. Their accusations are based on false claims, supported by bits of text and figures selectively extracted from our writings and presented completely out of context, in misleading ways. None of the researchers were contacted for comments before these outlandish conspiracy theories were aired and published. There is a good dose of irony in a research project that studies the diffusion of misinformation becoming the target of such a powerful disinformation machine. (The video of the first segment on “The Kelly File” with misinformation about our project was later removed from the Fox News website.)

9/3/2014: David Uberti wrote an accurate account of recent events in Columbia Journalism Review.

10/18/2014: Unfortunately, the smear campaign against our research project continues, with unsupported allegations echoed in an misleading op-ed by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who did not contact any of the researchers with questions about the accuracy of his allegations.

10/22/2014: Amid news reports that the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee initiated an investigation into the NSF grant supporting our project, read our interview in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage setting the record straight about our research.

CRA, ACM, AAAI, USENIX, and SIAM write to congress about Truthy project

10/23/2014: While the House Majority Leader joins the fray, IU releases a statement in support of our work.

10/24/2014: Fox News and FCC Commissioner Pai continue to spread disinformation about our research. (The video of the interview about our project, to which we were not invited, was later removed from the Fox News website.)

10/27/2014: Some accurate coverage of the controversy appeared in Physics Today, Motherboard, Motherboard, and Indianapolis Star over the past few days.

11/3/2014: Jeffrey Mervis covers the controversy about this project in Science. We also provided additional information about our research in a slide deck embedded at the bottom of this post. 

11/4/2014: Five leading computing societies and associations (CRA, ACM, AAAI, USENIX, and SIAM) wrote a joint letter to the chairman and the committee ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology expressing their concern over mischaracterizations of our research.

11/7/2014: Over the past few days we have seen more coverage in Computer World, The Hill, Information Week, and Science about the reactions of the computing and science communities to the Truthy controversy.

11/11/2014: The House Science Committee Chairman sent a letter to the director of the  NSF on November 10, stating that our grant “was intended to create standards for online political discussion” and that a web service developed under the grant “targeted conservative social media messages.” These allegations are false, as we have explained in this post, in the slides embedded below, and in our publications — including the one quoted in the Chairman’s letter. On the same day, the Association of American Universities released a statement on the grant inquires by the House Science Committee.

11/21/2014: False rumors about our research continue to be spread. Some of the questions we have received suggested that our two separate project and demo websites were generating confusion, so we merged them into a redesigned research website with information and highlights about the research project, publications, demos, data, etc.

11/25/2014: Rep. Johnson and Rep. Lofgren, respectively ranking member and member of the House Committee on Science, write a letter to the committee chairman, Rep. Smith, in response to his accusations.

Facts about Truthy:

  1. Truthy is an informal nickname associated with a research project of the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at the IU School of Informatics and Computing. The project aims to study how information spreads on social media, such as Twitter.
  2. The project has focused on domains such as news, politics, social movements, scientific results, and trending social media topics. Researchers develop theoretical computer models and validate them by analyzing public data, mainly from the Twitter streaming API.
  3. Social media posts available through public APIs are processed without human intervention or judgment to visualize and study the spread of millions of memes. We aim to build a platform to make these analytic tools easily accessible to social scientists, reporters, and the general public.
  4. An important goal of the project is to help mitigate misuse and abuse of social media by helping us better understand how social media can be potentially abused. For example: when social bots are used to create the appearance of human-generated communication (hence the name “truthy”).  We study whether it is possible to automatically differentiate between organic content and so-called “astroturf.”
  5. Examples of research to date include analyses of geographic and temporal patterns in movements like Occupy Wall Street, societal unrest in Turkey, the polarization of online political discourse, the use of social media data to predict election outcomes and stock market movements, and the geographic diffusion of trending topics.
  6. On the more theoretical side, we have studied how individuals’  limited attention span affects what information we propagate and what social connections we make, and how the structure of social networks can help predict which memes are likely to become viral.
  7. Hundreds of researchers across the U.S. and the world are studying similar issues based on the same data and with analogous goals — these topics were studied well before the advent of social media. In the US these research efforts are supported not only by the NSF but also by other federal funding agencies such as DoD, DARPA, and IARPA.
  8. The results of our research have been covered widely in the press, published in top peer-reviewed journals, and presented at top conferences worldwide. All papers are publicly available.


Finally, the Truthy research project is not and never was:

  • a political watchdog
  • a database to be used by the federal government to monitor the activities of those who oppose its policies
  • a government probe of social media
  • an attempt to suppress free speech or limit political speech or develop standards for online political speech
  • a way to define “misinformation”
  • a partisan political effort
  • a system targeting political messages and commentary connected to conservative groups
  • a mechanism to terminate any social media accounts
  • a database tracking hate speech