NSMNSS workshop 4 – quantitative

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    Andy Scott

    When we think about social science using social media, quantitative methods are the ones that most likely come to mind first. But what are the key questions facing those who use, or would like to use, quantitative methods?


    In this workshop at the NSMNSS launch event, the main issues seemed to be around how researchers gain access to the data, how we ensure that they have the right skills and training to analyse it properly and how we redefine demographics with a dataset where the traditional variables we would use are not available.

    • At the moment, it seems that there is a focus on textual data. The network could be used to explore and disseminate methods or approaches to non-textual data.
    • Sharing information on how to access high-quality NSM data. This is especially important to those without access to APIs or computer scientists. A similar agreement of principles such as the Bermuda principles on data sharing would be useful, it was suggested.
    • An agenda for training future generations of NSM researchers. What skills do they need to make best use of the data? Things like coding skills really important, for example.
    • Work on understanding emergence of social networks; understanding the complexity of how things happen and networks emerge, not just the interactions between networks.
    • Changing ways of working and accessing the data. There is a lot of work to be done around relationships between private companies who often own the data (Facebook, Twitter, Google) and small(er), publicly funded researchers who need to use it to conduct modern social sciences.
      • Agendas for working more closely with private companies – shared research agendas?
      • Encourage the research councils and other grant-awarding bodies to lobby and leverage private companies to make data more easily/cheaply accessible.
    • Ways to break the silos between different disciplines and industries. How can we as social scientists reach out to others to create new methods and a research agenda?
    • More specific guidance on how we access, analysis, ground in social theory, and use the data to improve society/to inform business decisions.
    • How we deal with data that lacks demographic information – ‘post-demographics’. New ways of understanding differences between subjects when we don’t have access to their gender, class etc. This could be using different metrics – who they follow, their follower count, or their social networks, but it would be good to have some guidance or collaborate on developing these ideas.

    But what do you think about this list? This is your network and we need your thoughts to guide our future activities.

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