Two upcoming SONIC presentations

Two SONIC lab PhD researchers will present at this weekend’s Organizational Communication Mini Conference at the University of Missouri in Columbia.  Alina Lungeanu is presenting a paper titled “A network perspective on success in collaboration: Stop citing me for your own good?” exploring patterns of scientific collaboration.  Ryan Whalen will present “Government structure as multiplex network: Improving our understanding of inter-organizational relations” in which he explores ways to map and understand government structure.

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Maria Binz-Scharf SONIC Speaker Series

Maria Binz-ScharfProfessor Maria Binz-Scharf will be presenting “Collaborative Production of Scientific Knowledge”  on Thursday, September 15, 2011 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Research scientists have become increasingly dependent on collaborations across laboratories and organizations to maintain their productivity. However, growing specialization of individual laboratories works against a current drive towards understanding systems in the sciences. Consequently, there is a tension between the rising importance of collaborative efforts and the practical and structural challenges in establishing and managing such collaborations in the quest to understand our world. Drawing on ethnographic case studies of three academic research labs, we illustrate how scientific knowledge is produced in collaborations that are established and maintained through virtual organizations (VOs). As much as VOs can facilitate scientific work across time and space, they do not eradicate the social aspects (e.g. trust among scientists, institutional limitations, laboratory cultures) to scientific knowledge production.

Maria Binz-Scharf is Associate Professor of Management at the City College of CUNY, and Visiting Researcher at Xerox PARC. Her research examines how individuals search for and share knowledge to accomplish work. In particular, she is interested in understanding the role technology plays in processes of knowledge sharing and innovation. With the support of grants from the NSF and NIH, she has studied the knowledge networks of biologists, primary care physicians, and DNA forensic scientists.

Download the flyer here.


Collaborative Production of Scientific Knowledge


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MTS studies featured on Army Research Lab Blog

The work of several SONIC researchers including Brooke Foucault Welles, and Tony Vashevko has been featured in the Army Research Lab’s Network Science-Collaborative Technology Alliance Blog. The information can be found after the jump, halfway down the blog under “Multi-Team Systems Simulation”.
Whether it’s emergency relief due to natural disasters or humanitarian aid in war torn regions, there are situations where international organizations, first responders, and military personnel need to collaborate effectively on teams in stressful situations. Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will use the Multi-team System Simulation – or MTS Platform – to gain insight on how network parameters can be configured to better allow small teams to coordinate in such emergency situations.

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Contractor to teach Workshop in Trento, Italy

Director of SONIC Lab, Noshir Contractor, will be teaching a workshop on Social Networks concepts and analysis techniques in Trento Italy next week. The course will introduce and illustrate social networks as a suitable conceptual tool to depict and empirically analyze complex datasets characterizing the cloud-computing era. More information can be found at the University of Trento’s website.

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Noshir Contractor Presents at University of Missouri

SONIC director, Noshir Contractor, and Professor Stanley Wasserman, of Indiana University, present a special panel and discussion of social network analysis and application at University of Missouri.

The discussion centers on collaborative research and its organization, and will be held Wednesday, April 27, 1-3 p.m. in 572 Bond Life Sciences Center, at University of Missouri.

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WINNERS IN THE DATA PRE-PROCESSING CHALLENGE (France, Complex Systems Institute of Paris Ile-de-France)

Yun Huang, Alina Lungeanu, Chuang Zhang (SONIC lab) together with their collaborators from NICO (Mike Stringer, Jonathan Haynes), and AMARAL Lab (Dan McClary, Xiaohan Zeng) are the winners for the data pre-processing challenge at Mining the Digital Traces of Science (MDTS11) International Workshop with their submission “Structured and Relational Information Extraction”.

Based on a dataset provided by Thomson ISI Web of Science, with a focus on embryology and embryonic science from 1956 to 2010, the team developed AWK and Python scripts to extract more than 30 attributes related to articles, issues, and authors and construct 16 relational tables in MySQL.

Using SQL stored procedures, users can easily extract author-publication, author-citation, co-authorship, and citation similarity relations as well as related author keywords, keyword plus, addresses, publication years, and subject categories for a subset or all authors.

The data pre-processing scripts facilitate the collaboration on designing and developing innovative tools to access scientific publication databases (such as ISI Web of Science), in order to empower users with new methods of navigation, interaction, and data visualization for this kind of databases.

MDTS11 Collaborative Challenge Winners page:

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Third International Workshop on Network Theory: Web Science Meets Network Science

Annenberg Networks  Network, Northwestern’s SONIC lab, and Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO) hosted the Third International Workshop on Network Theory March 4th-6th, followed directly by the NICO Complexity Conference at Northwestern University’s Allen Center. Although the weather in Evanston turned surly, members of the SONIC lab, along with some of the most influential and brilliant scholars involved in network and web science, discussed the future of the field, major challenges, and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. We’ll have photos available in the next couple of days (look out for a new slideshow on our homepage!) and video from the conference talks available by March 21st.

In the meantime, you can read an excellent blog post at the Complexity and Social Networks blog about a talk given by Stanley Wasserman and the discussion that followed by SONIC’s own Brian Keegan, a graduate student in the Media, Technology, and Society program.  There’s also a tweet-record of the official back channel of Third International at #webnetsci.

Our sincere thanks to everyone who participated in the conference!

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Partner Knowledge Awareness: A Better Way to Learn?

Just recently published this year in the Journal of Experimental Education, an article titled Partner Knowledge Awareness in Knowledge Communication: Learning by Adapting to the Partner sheds interesting new insight on educational methods.

First, Partner Knowledge Awareness (PKA) is defined to be a “phenomenon in which a person is aware of aspects of another group member’s knowledge. Awareness refers to an individual’s mental state, partner prefers to the target of the mental representation, and knowledge refers to the relevant characteristic of the target.”

This article primarily focuses on the effect of PKA on learning outcome and processes. For example, “during explanation, for instance, one collaborator can use PKA to adapt explanations toward the partner’s knowledge.”

Essentially, PKA induces a cognitive process when dealing with information, which is known as knowledge transforming. The authors explain, “adapting explanations to a partner is thought to foster one’s own understanding and learning to the extent that the explainer will clarify and reorganize the material in new ways to make it more understandable to others.” Although not the most complicated concept, it brings up the question how much of a beneficial educational impact this cognitive process can have.

Performed in Germany, the experiment involved about 49 native students. Each were given about 25 minutes to study extensive hypertexts about blood constituents and the immune system. Afterward, the subjects were randomly assigned into groups of three. One member, the explainer, of each group was given the responsibility to explain the material to the other two, the recipients.

The explainer was given a visualization tool before he or she had to begin:

You may be wondering, what exactly is this image? It is PKA! On paper!

After learning the material, every participant filled out a sheet of paper, like the one above, marking what he or she didn’t know. The explainer is now aware of the parameters of both of the recipients’ knowledge on the material; consequently, the visualization tool fosters and creates PKA for the explainer to adapt, improve, and specialize their explanations.

Afterwards, all the participants were tested on the material by taking a 36 multiple-choice exam. The results for the recipients, the subjects who had the material explained to them, were not surprising: they scored higher than those who had taken the exam without receiving explanations. However, the surprising result was that the explainers, who were given the PKA visualization tool, significantly scored much higher than the control group, explainers who did not receive the PKA. The explainers with PKA not only had the greatest improvement in scores but the highest scores overall. The authors explain, “Not only can other group members potentially benefit from these adaptations, but one of the major arguments here is that explainers using PKA information themselves are supported in their learning. The one adapting is the one benefiting.”

What this article suggests is neither groundbreaking nor very modern. The idea that “teaching is the best way to learn” has been around for ages. However, what this study does suggest is a simple method, which can be as simple as a piece of paper, that fosters huge learning benefits for everyone. In fact, the idea is so simple that it is rather striking that educators don’t implement this sort of knowledge communication more often.

So as I try to pay attention to the complicated jargon my professor is simultaneously mumbling and drawing on a dirty chalkboard, I can’t help myself asking the very questions this article brings up. Wouldn’t my professor explain the material more effectively if they were aware of what I do and do not know? Wouldn’t my understanding be taken to new heights if I were forced to try explaining the material in my own words rather than sitting in class writing and memorizing everything someone else says verbatim? Wouldn’t knowledge communication be more beneficial than knowledge memorization?

I shrug my shoulders, excommunicate myself in the library, and begin to cram for the next midterm, unaware of a better way to learn and understand the countless numbers, terms, and words that seem to dominate my life.



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