Introducing Reach: find and track research being put into action


Blog by Dawn Duhaney: “At Wellcome Data Labs we’re releasing our first product, Reach. Our goal is to support funding organisations and researchers by making it easier to find and track scientific research being put into action by governments and global health organisations.

https://reach.wellcomedatalabs.org/
https://reach.wellcomedatalabs.org/

We focused on solving this problem in collaboration with our internal Insights and Analysis team for Wellcome and with partner organisations before deciding to release Reach more widely.

We found that evaluation teams wanted tools to help them measure the influence academic research was having on policy making institutions. We noticed that it is often challenging to track how scientific evidence makes its way into policy making. Institutions like the UK Government and the World Health Organisation have hundreds of thousands of policy documents available — it’s a heavily manual task to search through them to find evidence of our funded research.

At Wellcome we have some established methods for collecting evidence of policy influence from our funded research such as end of scheme reporting and via word of mouth. Through these methods we found great examples of how funded research was being put into policy and practice by government and global health organisations.

One example is from Kenya. The KEMRI Research Programme — a collaboration between the Kenyan Medical Research Institute, Wellcome and Oxford University launched a research programme to improve maternal health in 2005. Their research was cited in the World Health Organisation and with advocacy efforts from the KEMRI team influenced the development of new Kenyan national guidelines of paediatric care.

In Wellcome Data Labs we wanted to build a tool that would aid the discovery of evidence based policy making and be a step in the process of assessing research influence for evaluators, researchers and funding institutions….(More)”.

Armchair Survey Research: A Possible Post-COVID-19 Boon in Social Science


Paper by Samiul Hasan: “Post-COVID-19 technologies for higher education and corporate communication have opened-up wonderful opportunity for Online Survey Research. These technologies could be used for one-to-one interview, group interview, group questionnaire survey, online questionnaire survey, or even ‘focus group’ discussions. This new trend, which may aptly be called ‘armchair survey research’ may be the only or new trend in social science research. If that is the case, an obvious question might be what is ‘survey research’ and how is it going to be easier in the post-COVID-19 world? My intention is to offer some help to the promising researchers who have all quality and eagerness to undertake good social science research for publication, but no fund.

The text is divided into three main parts. Part one deals with “Science, Social Science and Research” to highlight some important points about the importance of ‘What’, ‘Why’, and ‘So what’ and ‘framing of a research question’ for a good research. Then the discussion moves to ‘reliability and validity’ in social science research including falsifiability, content validity, and construct validity. This part ends with discussions on concepts, constructs, and variables in a theoretical (conceptual) framework. The second part deals categorically with ‘survey research’ highlighting the use and features of interviews and questionnaire surveys. It deals primarily with the importance and use of nominal response or scale and ordinal response or scale as well as the essentials of question content and wording, and question sequencing. The last part deals with survey research in the post-COVID-19 period highlighting strategies for undertaking better online survey research, without any fund….(More)”.

Reclaiming Free Speech for Democracy and Human Rights in a Digitally Networked World


Paper by Rebecca MacKinnon: : “…divided into three sections. The first section discusses the relevance of international human rights standards to U.S. internet platforms and universities. The second section identifies three common challenges to universities and internet platforms, with clear policy implications. The third section recommends approaches to internet policy that can better protect human rights and strengthen democracy. The paper concludes with proposals for how universities can contribute to the creation of a more robust digital information ecosystem that protects free speech along with other human rights, and advances social justice.

1) International human rights standards are an essential complement to the First Amendment. While the First Amendment does not apply to how privately owned and operated digital platforms set and enforce rules governing their users’ speech, international human rights standards set forth a clear framework to which companies any other type of private organization can and should be held accountable. Scholars of international law and freedom of expression point out that Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights encompasses not only free speech, but also the right to access information and to formulate opinions without interference. Notably, this aspect of international human rights law is relevant in addressing the harms caused by disinformation campaigns aided by algorithms and targeted profiling. In protecting freedom of expression, private companies and organizations must also protect and respect other human rights, including privacy, non-discrimination, assembly, the right to political participation, and the basic right to security of person.

2) Three core challenges are common to universities and internet platforms. These common challenges must be addressed in order to protect free speech alongside other fundamental human rights including non-discrimination:

Challenge 1: The pretense of neutrality amplifies bias in an unjust world. In an inequitable and unjust world, “neutral” platforms and institutions will perpetuate and even exacerbate inequities and power imbalances unless they understand and adjust for those inequities and imbalances. This fundamental civil rights concept is better understood by the leaders of universities than by those in charge of social media platforms, which have clear impact on public discourse and civic engagement.

Challenge 2: Rules and enforcement are inadequate without strong leadership and cultural norms. Rules governing speech, and their enforcement, can be ineffective and even counterproductive unless they are accompanied by values-based leadership. Institutional cultures should take into account the context and circumstances of unique situations, individuals, and communities. For rules to have legitimacy, communities that are governed by them must be actively engaged in building a shared culture of responsibility.

Challenge 3: Communities need to be able to shape how and where they enable discourse and conduct learning. Different types of discourse that serve different purposes require differently designed spaces—be they physical or digital. It is important for communities to be able to set their own rules of engagement, and shape their spaces for different types of discourse. Overdependence upon a small number of corporate-controlled platforms does not serve communities well. Online free speech not only will be better served by policies that foster competition and strengthen antitrust law; policies and resources must also support the development of nonprofit, open source, and community-driven digital public infrastructure.

3) A clear and consistent policy environment that supports civil rights objectives and is compatible with human rights standards is essential to ensure that the digital public sphere evolves in a way that genuinely protects free speech and advances social justice. Analysis of twenty different consensus declarations, charters, and principles produced by international coalitions of civil society organizations reveals broad consensus with U.S.-based advocates of civil rights-compatible technology policy….(More)”.

tl;dr: this AI sums up research papers in a sentence


Jeffrey M. Perkel & Richard Van Noorden at Nature: “The creators of a scientific search engine have unveiled software that automatically generates one-sentence summaries of research papers, which they say could help scientists to skim-read papers faster.

The free tool, which creates what the team calls TLDRs (the common Internet acronym for ‘Too long, didn’t read’), was activated this week for search results at Semantic Scholar, a search engine created by the non-profit Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) in Seattle, Washington. For the moment, the software generates sentences only for the ten million computer-science papers covered by Semantic Scholar, but papers from other disciplines should be getting summaries in the next month or so, once the software has been fine-tuned, says Dan Weld, who manages the Semantic Scholar group at AI2…

Weld was inspired to create the TLDR software in part by the snappy sentences his colleagues share on Twitter to flag up articles. Like other language-generation software, the tool uses deep neural networks trained on vast amounts of text. The team included tens of thousands of research papers matched to their titles, so that the network could learn to generate concise sentences. The researchers then fine-tuned the software to summarize content by training it on a new data set of a few thousand computer-science papers with matching summaries, some written by the papers’ authors and some by a class of undergraduate students. The team has gathered training examples to improve the software’s performance in 16 other fields, with biomedicine likely to come first.

The TLDR software is not the only scientific summarizing tool: since 2018, the website Paper Digest has offered summaries of papers, but it seems to extract key sentences from text, rather than generate new ones, Weld notes. TLDR can generate a sentence from a paper’s abstract, introduction and conclusion. Its summaries tend to be built from key phrases in the article’s text, so are aimed squarely at experts who already understand a paper’s jargon. But Weld says the team is working on generating summaries for non-expert audiences….(More)”.

Interoperability as a tool for competition regulation


Paper by Ian Brown: “Interoperability is a technical mechanism for computing systems to work together – even if they are from competing firms. An interoperability requirement for large online platforms has been suggested by the European Commission as one ex ante (up-front rule) mechanism in its proposed Digital Markets Act (DMA), as a way to encourage competition. The policy goal is to increase choice and quality for users, and the ability of competitors to succeed with better services. The application would be to the largest online platforms, such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, smartphone operating systems (e.g. Android/iOS), and their ancillary services, such as payment and app stores.

This report analyses up-front interoperability requirements as a pro-competition policy tool for regulating large online platforms, exploring the economic and social rationales and possible regulatory mechanisms. It is based on a synthesis of recent comprehensive policy re-views of digital competition in major industrialised economies, and related academic literature, focusing on areas of emerging consensus while noting important disagreements. It draws particularly on the Vestager, Furman and Stigler reviews, and the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s study on online platforms and digital advertising. It also draws on interviews with software developers, platform operators, government officials, and civil society experts working in this field….(More)”.

Don’t Fear the Robots, and Other Lessons From a Study of the Digital Economy


Steve Lohr at the New York Times: “L. Rafael Reif, the president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, delivered an intellectual call to arms to the university’s faculty in November 2017: Help generate insights into how advancing technology has changed and will change the work force, and what policies would create opportunity for more Americans in the digital economy.

That issue, he wrote, is the “defining challenge of our time.”

Three years later, the task force assembled to address it is publishing its wide-ranging conclusions. The 92-page report, “The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines,” was released on Tuesday….

Here are four of the key findings in the report:

Most American workers have fared poorly.

It’s well known that those on the top rungs of the job ladder have prospered for decades while wages for average American workers have stagnated. But the M.I.T. analysis goes further. It found, for example, that real wages for men without four-year college degrees have declined 10 to 20 percent since their peak in 1980….

Robots and A.I. are not about to deliver a jobless future.

…The M.I.T. researchers concluded that the change would be more evolutionary than revolutionary. In fact, they wrote, “we anticipate that in the next two decades, industrialized countries will have more job openings than workers to fill them.”…

Worker training in America needs to match the market.

“The key ingredient for success is public-private partnerships,” said Annette Parker, president of South Central College, a community college in Minnesota, and a member of the advisory board to the M.I.T. project.

The schools, nonprofits and corporate-sponsored programs that have succeeded in lifting people into middle-class jobs all echo her point: the need to link skills training to business demand….

Workers need more power, voice and representation.The report calls for raising the minimum wage, broadening unemployment insurance and modifying labor laws to enable collective bargaining in occupations like domestic and home-care workers and freelance workers. Such representation, the report notes, could come from traditional unions or worker advocacy groups like the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Jobs With Justice and the Freelancers Union….(More)”

For the Win


Revised and Updated Book by Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter on “The Power of Gamification and Game Thinking in Business, Education, Government, and Social Impact”: “For thousands of years, we’ve created things called games that tap the tremendous psychic power of fun. In a revised and updated edition of For the Win: The Power of Gamification and Game Thinking in Business, Education, Government, and Social Impact, authors Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter argue that applying the lessons of gamification could change your business, the way you learn or teach, and even your life.

Werbach and Hunter explain how games can be used as a valuable tool to address serious pursuits like marketing, productivity enhancement, education, innovation, customer engagement, human resources, and sustainability. They reveal how, why, and when gamification works—and what not to do.

Discover the successes—and failures—of organizations that are using gamification:

  • How a South Korean company called Neofect is using gamification to help people recover from strokes;
  • How a tool called SuperBetter has demonstrated significant results treating depression, concussion symptoms, and the mental health harms of the COVID-19 pandemic through game thinking;
  • How the ride-hailing giant Uber once used gamification to influence their drivers to work longer hours than they otherwise wanted to, causing swift backlash.

The story of gamification isn’t fun and games by any means. It’s serious. When used carefully and thoughtfully, gamification produces great outcomes for users, in ways that are hard to replicate through other methods. Other times, companies misuse the “guided missile” of gamification to have people work and do things in ways that are against their self-interest.

This revised and updated edition incorporates the most prominent research findings to provide a comprehensive gamification playbook for the real world….(More)”.

A nudge helps doctors bring up end-of-life issues with their dying cancer patients


Article by Ravi Parikh et al: “When conversations about goals and end-of-life wishes happen early, they can improve patients’ quality of life and decrease their chances of dying on a ventilator or in an intensive care unit. Yet doctors treating cancer focus so much of their attention on treating the disease that these conversations tend to get put off until it’s too late. This leads to costly and often unwanted care for the patient.Related: 

This can be fixed, but it requires addressing two key challenges. The first is that it is often difficult for doctors to know how long patients have left to live. Even among patients in hospice care, doctors get it wrong nearly 70% of the time. Hospitals and private companies have invested millions of dollars to try and identify these outcomes, often using artificial intelligence and machine learning, although most of these algorithms have not been vetted in real-world settings.

In a recent set of studies, our team used data from real-time electronic medical records to develop a machine learning algorithm that identified which cancer patients had a high risk of dying in the next six months. We then tested the algorithm on 25,000 patients who were seen at our health system’s cancer practices and found it performed better than relying only on doctors to identify high-risk patients.

But just because such a tool exists doesn’t mean doctors will use it to prompt more conversations. The second challenge — which is even harder to overcome — is using machine learning to motivate clinicians to have difficult conversations with patients about the end of life.

We wondered if implementing a timely “nudge” that doctors received before seeing their high-risk patients could help them start the conversation.

To test this idea, we used our prediction tool in a clinical trial involving nine cancer practices. Doctors in the nudge group received a weekly report on how many end-of-life conversations they had compared to their peers, along with a list of patients they were scheduled to see the following week who the algorithm deemed at high-risk of dying in the next six months. They could review the list and uncheck any patients they thought were not appropriate for end-of-life conversations. For the patients who remained checked, doctors received a text message on the day of the appointment reminding them to discuss the patient’s goals at the end of life. Doctors in the control group did not receive the email or text message intervention.

As we reported in JAMA Oncology, 15% of doctors who received the nudge text had end-of-life conversations with their patients, compared to just 4% of the control doctors….(More)”.

Remaking the Commons: How Digital Tools Facilitate and Subvert the Common Good


Paper by Jessica Feldman:”This scoping paper considers how digital tools, such as ICTs and AI, have failed to contribute to the “common good” in any sustained or scalable way. This is attributed to a problem that is at once political-economic and technical.

Many digital tools’ business models are predicated on advertising: framing the user as an individual consumer-to-be-targeted, not as an organization, movement, or any sort of commons. At the level of infrastructure and hardware, the increased privatization and centralization of transmission and production leads to a dangerous bottlenecking of communication power, and to labor and production practices that are undemocratic and damaging to common resources.

These practices escalate collective action problems, pose a threat to democratic decision making, aggravate issues of economic and labor inequality, and harm the environment and health. At the same time, the growth of both AI and online community formation raise questions around the very definition of human subjectivity and modes of relationality. Based on an operational definition of the common good grounded in ethics of care, sustainability, and redistributive justice, suggestions are made for solutions and further research in the areas of participatory design, digital democracy, digital labor, and environmental sustainability….(More)”

Google launches new tool to help cities stay cool


Article by Justine Calma: “Google unveiled a tool today that could help cities keep their residents cool by mapping out where trees are needed most. Cities tend to be warmer than surrounding areas because buildings and asphalt trap heat. An easy way to cool metropolitan areas down is to plant more trees in neighborhoods where they’re sparse.

Google’s new Tree Canopy Lab uses aerial imagery and Google’s AI to figure out where every tree is in a city. Tree Canopy Lab puts that information on an interactive map along with additional data on which neighborhoods are more densely populated and are more vulnerable to high temperatures. The hope is that planting new trees in these areas could help cities adapt to a warming world and save lives during heat waves.

Google piloted Tree Canopy Lab in Los Angeles. Data on hundreds more cities is on the way, the company says. City planners interested in using the tool in the future can reach out to Google through a form it posted along with today’s announcement.

“We’ll be able to really home in on where the best strategic investment will be in terms of addressing that urban heat,” says Rachel Malarich, Los Angeles’ first city forest officer.

Google claims that its new tool can save cities like Los Angeles time when it comes to taking inventory of their trees. That’s often done by sending people to survey each block. Los Angeles has also used LIDAR technology to map their urban forest in the past, which uses a laser sensor to detect the trees — but that process was expensive and slow, according to Malarich. Google’s new service, on the other hand, is free to use and will be updated regularly using images the company already takes by plane for Google Maps….(More)”.