China’s fake science industry: how ‘paper mills’ threaten progress

Article by Eleanor Olcott, Clive Cookson and Alan Smith at the Financial Times: “…Over the past two decades, Chinese researchers have become some of the world’s most prolific publishers of scientific papers. The Institute for Scientific Information, a US-based research analysis organisation, calculated that China produced 3.7mn papers in 2021 — 23 per cent of global output — and just behind the 4.4mn total from the US.

At the same time, China has been climbing the ranks of the number of times a paper is cited by other authors, a metric used to judge output quality. Last year, China surpassed the US for the first time in the number of most cited papers, according to Japan’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, although that figure was flattered by multiple references to Chinese research that first sequenced the Covid-19 virus genome.

The soaring output has sparked concern in western capitals. Chinese advances in high-profile fields such as quantum technology, genomics and space science, as well as Beijing’s surprise hypersonic missile test two years ago, have amplified the view that China is marching towards its goal of achieving global hegemony in science and technology.

That concern is a part of a wider breakdown of trust in some quarters between western institutions and Chinese ones, with some universities introducing background checks on Chinese academics amid fears of intellectual property theft.

But experts say that China’s impressive output masks systemic inefficiencies and an underbelly of low-quality and fraudulent research. Academics complain about the crushing pressure to publish to gain prized positions at research universities…(More)”.

The limits of expert judgment: Lessons from social science forecasting during the pandemic

Article by Cendri Hutcherson  Michael Varnum Imagine being a policymaker at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. You have to decide which actions to recommend, how much risk to tolerate and what sacrifices to ask your citizens to bear.

Who would you turn to for an accurate prediction about how people would react? Many would recommend going to the experts — social scientists. But we are here to tell you this would be bad advice.

As psychological scientists with decades of combined experience studying decision-makingwisdomexpert judgment and societal change, we hoped social scientists’ predictions would be accurate and useful. But we also had our doubts.

Our discipline has been undergoing a crisis due to failed study replications and questionable research practices. If basic findings can’t be reproduced in controlled experiments, how confident can we be that our theories can explain complex real-world outcomes?

To find out how well social scientists could predict societal change, we ran the largest forecasting initiative in our field’s history using predictions about change in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic as a test case….

Our findings, detailed in peer-reviewed papers in Nature Human Behaviour and in American Psychologist, paint a sobering picture. Despite the causal nature of most theories in the social sciences, and the fields’ emphasis on prediction in controlled settings, social scientists’ forecasts were generally not very good.

In both papers, we found that experts’ predictions were generally no more accurate than those made by samples of the general public. Further, their predictions were often worse than predictions generated by simple statistical models.

Our studies did still give us reasons to be optimistic. First, forecasts were more accurate when teams had specific expertise in the domain they were making predictions in. If someone was an expert in depression, for example, they were better at predicting societal trends in depression.

Second, when teams were made up of scientists from different fields working together, they tended to do better at forecasting. Finally, teams that used simpler models to generate their predictions and made use of past data generally outperformed those that didn’t.

These findings suggest that, despite the poor performance of the social scientists in our studies, there are steps scientists can take to improve their accuracy at this type of forecasting….(More)”.

What We Gain from More Behavioral Science in the Global South

Article by Pauline Kabitsis and Lydia Trupe: “In recent years, the field has been critiqued for applying behavioral science at the margins, settling for small but statistically significant effect sizes. Critics have argued that by focusing our efforts on nudging individuals to increase their 401(k) contributions or to reduce their so-called carbon footprint, we have ignored the systemic drivers of important challenges, such as fundamental flaws in the financial system and corporate responsibility for climate change. As Michael Hallsworth points out, however, the field may not be willfully ignoring these deeper challenges, but rather investing in areas of change that are likely easier to move, measure, and secure funding.

It’s been our experience working in the Global South that nudge-based solutions can provide short-term gains within current systems, but for lasting impact a focus beyond individual-level change is required. This is because the challenges in the Global South typically navigate fundamental problems, like enabling women’s reproductive choice, combatting intimate partner violence and improving food security among the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Our work at Common Thread focuses on improving behaviors related to health, like encouraging those persistently left behind to get vaccinated, and enabling Ukrainian refugees in Poland to access health and welfare services. We use a behavioral model that considers not just the individual biases that impact people’s behaviors, but the structural, social, interpersonal, and even historical context that triggers these biases and inhibits health seeking behaviors…(More)”.

The wisdom of crowds for improved disaster resilience: a near-real-time analysis of crowdsourced social media data on the 2021 flood in Germany

Paper by Mahsa Moghadas, Alexander Fekete, Abbas Rajabifard & Theo Kötter: “Transformative disaster resilience in times of climate change underscores the importance of reflexive governance, facilitation of socio-technical advancement, co-creation of knowledge, and innovative and bottom-up approaches. However, implementing these capacity-building processes by relying on census-based datasets and nomothetic (or top-down) approaches remains challenging for many jurisdictions. Web 2.0 knowledge sharing via online social networks, whereas, provides a unique opportunity and valuable data sources to complement existing approaches, understand dynamics within large communities of individuals, and incorporate collective intelligence into disaster resilience studies. Using Twitter data (passive crowdsourcing) and an online survey, this study draws on the wisdom of crowds and public judgment in near-real-time disaster phases when the flood disaster hit Germany in July 2021. Latent Dirichlet Allocation, an unsupervised machine learning technique for Topic Modeling, was applied to the corpora of two data sources to identify topics associated with different disaster phases. In addition to semantic (textual) analysis, spatiotemporal patterns of online disaster communication were analyzed to determine the contribution patterns associated with the affected areas. Finally, the extracted topics discussed online were compiled into five themes related to disaster resilience capacities (preventive, anticipative, absorptive, adaptive, and transformative). The near-real-time collective sensing approach reflected optimized diversity and a spectrum of people’s experiences and knowledge regarding flooding disasters and highlighted communities’ sociocultural characteristics. This bottom-up approach could be an innovative alternative to traditional participatory techniques of organizing meetings and workshops for situational analysis and timely unfolding of such events at a fraction of the cost to inform disaster resilience initiatives…(More)”.

The pandemic veneer: COVID-19 research as a mobilisation of collective intelligence by the global research community

Paper by Daniel W Hook and James R Wilsdon: “The global research community responded with speed and at scale to the emergence of COVID-19, with around 4.6% of all research outputs in 2020 related to the pandemic. That share almost doubled through 2021, to reach 8.6% of research outputs. This reflects a dramatic mobilisation of global collective intelligence in the face of a crisis. It also raises fundamental questions about the funding, organisation and operation of research. In this Perspective article, we present data that suggests that COVID-19 research reflects the characteristics of the underlying networks from which it emerged, and on which it built. The infrastructures on which COVID-19 research has relied – including highly skilled, flexible research capacity and collaborative networks – predated the pandemic, and are the product of sustained, long-term investment. As such, we argue that COVID-19 research should not be viewed as a distinct field, or one-off response to a specific crisis, but as a ‘pandemic veneer’ layered on top of longstanding interdisciplinary networks, capabilities and structures. These infrastructures of collective intelligence need to be better understood, valued and sustained as crucial elements of future pandemic or crisis response…(More)”.

Policy Guide on Social Impact Measurement for the Social and Solidarity Economy

OECD Report: “As social and solidarity economy (SSE) entities are increasingly requested to demonstrate their positive contribution to society, social impact measurement can help them understand the additional, net value generated by their activities, in the pursuit of their mission and beyond. Policy plays an important role to facilitate a conducive environment to unlock the uptake of social impact measurement among SSE actors. Drawing on a mapping exercise and good practice examples from over 33 countries, this international policy guide navigates how policy makers can support social impact measurement for the social and solidarity economy by: (i) improving the policy framework, (ii) delivering guidance, (iii) building evidence and (iv) supporting capacity. Building on the earlier publication Social Impact Measurement for the Social and Solidarity Economy released in 2021 the guide is published under the framework of the OECD Global Action “Promoting Social and Solidarity Economy Ecosystems”, funded by the European Union’s Foreign Partnership Instrument…(More)”.

An agenda for advancing trusted data collaboration in cities

Report by Hannah Chafetz, Sampriti Saxena, Adrienne Schmoeker, Stefaan G. Verhulst, & Andrew J. Zahuranec: “… Joined by experts across several domains including smart cities, the law, and data ecosystem, this effort was focused on developing solutions that could improve the design of Data Sharing Agreements…we assessed what is needed to implement each aspect of our Contractual Wheel of Data Collaboration–a tool developed as a part of the Contracts for Data Collaborations initiative that seeks to capture the elements involved in data collaborations and Data Sharing Agreements.

In what follows, we provide key suggestions from this Action Lab…

  1. The Elements of Principled Negotiations: Those seeking to develop a Data Sharing Agreement often struggle to work with collaborators or agree to common ends. There is a need for a common resource that Data Stewards can use to initiate a principled negotiation process. To address this need, we would identify the principles to inform negotiations and the elements that could help achieve those principles. For example, participants voiced a need for fairness, transparency, and reciprocity principles. These principles could be supported by having a shared language or outlining the minimum legal documents required for each party. The final product would be a checklist or visualization of principles and their associated elements.
  2. Data Responsibility Principles by Design: …
  3. Readiness Matrix: 
  4. A Decision Provenance Approach for Data Collaboration: ..
  5. The Contractual Wheel of Data Collaboration 2.0
  6. A Repository of Legal Drafting Technologies:…(More)”.

Atlas of the Senseable City

Book by Antoine Picon and Carlo Ratti: “What have smart technologies taught us about cities? What lessons can we learn from today’s urbanites to make better places to live? Antoine Picon and Carlo Ratti argue that the answers are in the maps we make. For centuries, we have relied on maps to navigate the enormity of the city. Now, as the physical world combines with the digital world, we need a new generation of maps to navigate the city of tomorrow. Pervasive sensors allow anyone to visualize cities in entirely new ways—ebbs and flows of pollution, traffic, and internet connectivity.
This book explores how the growth of digital mapping, spurred by sensing technologies, is affecting cities and daily lives. It examines how new cartographic possibilities aid urban planners, technicians, politicians, and administrators; how digitally mapped cities could reveal ways to make cities smarter and more efficient; how monitoring urbanites has political and social repercussions; and how the proliferation of open-source maps and collaborative platforms can aid activists and vulnerable populations. With its beautiful, accessible presentation of cutting-edge research, this book makes it easy for readers to understand the stakes of the new information age—and appreciate the timeless power of the city….(More)”.

Leveraging alternative data to provide loans to the unbanked

Article by Keely Khoury: “Financial inclusion is integral to the achievement of seven of the 17 global SDGs, and the World Bank says in its 2021 report that between 2011 and 2021, “Great strides have been made toward financial inclusion.” However, despite a significant increase in the number of people accessing bank accounts, around 24 per cent of the global population remain unbanked.  

Particularly for minority groups such as immigrants, the ability to access formal financial services is made exponentially more difficult by their lack of permanent address, loss of employment, and gaps in tax records. For small business owners – many of whom provide an essential community service – a lack of formal accounting records, along with any previous time spent unbanked as individuals, contributes to a dearth of information traditionally used to evaluate risk for loans.  

To tackle this issue, US startup Uplinq provides lenders with a ‘credit-assessment-as-a-service’ solution that takes into account the entire business ecosystem, and therefore billions of data points that would not traditionally be examined by underwriters considering a traditional loan application. From supplier references and store traffic to community involvement and property improvements, Uplinq provides a holistic and accurate assessment of the “opportunities, challenges, and interests of each prospect” within “known confidence ranges.” By working with independently audited and fully regulatory-compliant data sets, Uplinq’s services are available worldwide.  

Other innovations that Springwise has spotted that are helping unbanked communities include a Spanish language-first bank, and a free digital learning platform to help underserved communities understand how to better manage their finances…(More)”.

The Synchronized Society: Time and Control From Broadcasting to the Internet

Book by Randall Patnode: “…traces the history of the synchronous broadcast experience of the twentieth century and the transition to the asynchronous media that dominate today. Broadcasting grew out of the latent desire by nineteenth-century industrialists, political thinkers, and social reformers to tame an unruly society by controlling how people used their time. The idea manifested itself in the form of the broadcast schedule, a managed flow of information and entertainment that required audiences to be in a particular place – usually the home – at a particular time and helped to create “water cooler” moments, as audiences reflected on their shared media texts. Audiences began disconnecting from the broadcast schedule at the end of the twentieth century, but promoters of social media and television services still kept audiences under control, replacing the schedule with surveillance of media use. Author Randall Patnode offers compelling new insights into the intermingled roles of broadcasting and industrial/post-industrial work and how Americans spend their time…(More)”.