Community Colleges Boost STEM Student Success Through Behavioral Nudging


Press Release: “JFF, a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, and Persistence Plus, which pairs behavioral insights with intelligent text messaging to improve student success, today released the findings from an analysis that examined the effects of personalized nudging on nearly 10,000 community college students. The study, conducted over two years at four community colleges, found that behavioral nudging had a significant impact on student persistence rates—with strong improvements among students of color and older adult learners, who are often underrepresented among graduates of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs.

“These results offer powerful evidence on the potential, and imperative, of using technology to support students during the most in-demand, and often most challenging, courses and majors,” said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF. “With millions of STEM jobs going unfilled, closing the gap in STEM achievement has profound economic—and equity—implications.” 

In a multiyear initiative called “Nudging to STEM Success, which was funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, JFF and Persistence Plus selected four colleges to implement the nudging initiative campuswide:Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio; Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio; Stark State College in North Canton, Ohio; and John Tyler Community College in Chester, Virginia.

A randomized control trial in the summer of 2017 showed that the nudges increased first-to-second-year persistence for STEM students by 10 percentage points. The results of that trial will be presented in an upcoming peer-reviewed paper titled “A Summer Nudge Campaign to Motivate Community College STEM Students to Reenroll.” The paper will be published in AERA Open, an open-access journal published by the American Educational Research Association. 

Following the 2017 trial, the four colleges scaled the support to nearly 10,000 students, and over the next two years, JFF and Persistence Plus found that the nudging support had a particularly strong impact on students of color and students over the age of 25—two groups that have historically had lower persistence rates than other students….(More)”.

Scientists use phone movement to predict personality types


RMIT: “Researchers used data from mobile phone accelerometers – the tiny sensors tracking phone movement for step-counting and other apps – to predict people’s personalities.

RMIT University computer scientist Associate Professor Flora Salim said previous studies had predicted personality types using phone call and messaging activity logs, but this study showed adding accelerometer data improved accuracy

“Activity like how quickly or how far we walk, or when we pick up our phones up during the night, often follows patterns and these patterns say a lot about our personality type,” said Salim, a leading expert in human mobility data.

Physical activity is proven to have a strong correlation with human personality. Therefore, researchers analysed physical activity features from different dimensions like dispersion, diversity, and regularity.

Key findings from the study:

  • People with consistent movements on weekday evenings were generally more introverted, while extroverts displayed more random patterns, perhaps meeting up with different people and taking up unplanned options.
  • Agreeable people had more random activity patterns and were busier on weekends and weekday evenings than others.
  • Friendly and compassionate females made more outgoing calls than anyone else.
  • Conscientious, organized people didn’t tend to contact the same person often in a short space of time.
  • Sensitive or neurotic females often checked their phones or moved with their phones regularly well into the night, past midnight. Sensitive or neurotic males did the opposite.
  • More inventive and curious people tended to make and receive fewer phone calls compared to others….(More)”

Open Mobility Foundation


Press Release: “The Open Mobility Foundation (OMF) – a global coalition led by cities committed to using well-designed, open-source technology to evolve how cities manage transportation in the modern era – launched today with the mission to promote safety, equity and quality of life. The announcement comes as a response to the growing number of vehicles and emerging mobility options on city streets. A new city-governed non-profit, the OMF brings together academic, commercial, advocacy and municipal stakeholders to help cities develop and deploy new digital mobility tools, and provide the governance needed to efficiently manage them.

“Cities are always working to harness the power of technology for the public good. The Open Mobility Foundation will help us manage emerging transportation infrastructures, and make mobility more accessible and affordable for people in all of our communities,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also serves as Advisory Council Chair of Accelerator for America, which showcased the MDS platform early on.

The OMF convenes a new kind of public-private forum to seed innovative ideas and govern an evolving software platform. Serving as a forum for discussions about pedestrian safety, privacy, equity, open-source governance and other related topics, the OMF has engaged a broad range of city and municipal organizations, private companies and non-profit groups, and experts and advocates to ensure comprehensive engagement and expertise on vital issues….

The OMF governs a platform called “Mobility Data Specification” (MDS) that the Los Angeles Department of Transportation developed to help manage dockless micro-mobility programs (including shared dockless e-scooters). MDS is comprised of a set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that create standard communications between cities and private companies to improve their operations. The APIs allow cities to collect data that can inform real-time traffic management and public policy decisions to enhance safety, equity and quality of life. More than 50 cities across the United States – and dozens across the globe – already use MDS to manage micro-mobility services.

Making this software open and free offers a safe and efficient environment for stakeholders, including municipalities, companies, experts and the public, to solve problems together. And because private companies scale best when cities can offer a consistent playbook for innovation, the OMF aims to nurture those services that provide the highest benefit to the largest number of people, from sustainability to safety outcomes….(More)”

The European Lead Factory: Collective intelligence and cooperation to improve patients’ lives


Press Release: “While researchers from small and medium-sized companies and academic institutions often have enormous numbers of ideas, they don’t always have enough time or resources to develop them all. As a result, many ideas get left behind because companies and academics typically have to focus on narrow areas of research. This is known as the “Innovation Gap”. ESCulab (European Screening Centre: unique library for attractive biology) aims to turn this problem into an opportunity by creating a comprehensive library of high-quality compounds. This will serve as a basis for testing potential research targets against a wide variety of compounds.

Any researcher from a European academic institution or a small to medium-sized enterprise within the consortium can apply for a screening of their potential drug target. If a submitted target idea is positively assessed by a committee of experts it will be run through a screening process and the submitting party will receive a dossier of up to 50 potentially relevant substances that can serve as starting points for further drug discovery activities.

ESCulab will build Europe’s largest collaborative drug discovery platform and is equipped with a total budget of € 36.5 million: Half is provided by the European Union’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and half comes from in-kind contributions from companies of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries an Associations (EFPIA) and the Medicines for Malaria Venture. It builds on the existing library of the European Lead Factory , which consists of around 200,000 compounds, as well as around 350,000 compounds from EFPIA companies. The European Lead Factory aims to initiate 185 new drug discovery projects through the ESCulab project by screening drug targets against its library.

… The platform has already provided a major boost for drug discovery in Europe and is a strong example of how crowdsourcing, collective intelligence and the cooperation within the IMI framework can create real value for academia, industry, society and patients….(More)”

EU countries and car manufacturers to share information to improve road safety


Press Release: “EU member states, car manufacturers and navigation systems suppliers will share information on road conditions with the aim of improving road safety. Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, agreed this today with four other EU countries during the ITS European Congress in Eindhoven. These agreements mean that millions of motorists in the Netherlands will have access to more information on unsafe road conditions along their route.

The data on road conditions that is registered by modern cars is steadily improving. For instance, information on iciness, wrong-way drivers and breakdowns in emergency lanes. This kind of data can be instantly shared with road authorities and other vehicles following the same route. Drivers can then adapt their driving behaviour appropriately so that accidents and delays are prevented….

The partnership was announced today at the ITS European Congress, the largest European event in the fields of smart mobility and the digitalisation of transport. Among other things, various demonstrations were given on how sharing this type of data contributes to road safety. In the year ahead, the car manufacturers BMW, Volvo, Ford and Daimler, the EU member states Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain and Luxembourg, and navigation system suppliers TomTom and HERE will be sharing data. This means that millions of motorists across the whole of Europe will receive road safety information in their car. Talks on participating in the partnership are also being conducted with other European countries and companies.

ADAS

At the ITS congress, Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen and several dozen parties today also signed an agreement on raising awareness of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and their safe use. Examples of ADAS include automatic braking systems, and blind spot detection and lane keeping systems. Using these driver assistance systems correctly makes driving a car safer and more sustainable. The agreement therefore also includes the launch of the online platform “slimonderweg.nl” where road users can share information on the benefits and risks of ADAS.
Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen: “Motorists are often unaware of all the capabilities modern cars offer. Yet correctly using driver assistance systems really can increase road safety. From today, dozens of parties are going to start working on raising awareness of ADAS and improving and encouraging the safe use of such systems so that more motorists can benefit from them.”

Connected Transport Corridors

Today at the congress, progress was also made regarding the transport of goods. For example, at the end of this year lorries on three transport corridors in our country will be sharing logistics data. This involves more than just information on environmental zones, availability of parking, recommended speeds and predicted arrival times at terminals. Other new technologies will be used in practice on a large scale, including prioritisation at smart traffic lights and driving in convoy. Preparatory work on the corridors around Amsterdam and Rotterdam and in the southern Netherlands has started…..(More)”.

Echo Chambers May Not Be as Dangerous as You Think, New Study Finds


News Release: “In the wake of the 2016 American presidential election, western media outlets have become almost obsessed with echo chambers. With headlines like “Echo Chambers are Dangerous” and “Are You in a Social Media Echo Chamber?,” news media consumers have been inundated by articles discussing the problems with spending most of one’s time around likeminded people.

But are social bubbles really all that bad? Perhaps not.

A new study from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that collective intelligence — peer learning within social networks — can increase belief accuracy even in politically homogenous groups.

“Previous research showed that social information processing could work in mixed groups,” says lead author and Annenberg alum Joshua Becker (Ph.D. ’18), who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “But theories of political polarization argued that social influence within homogenous groups should only amplify existing biases.”

It’s easy to imagine that networked collective intelligence would work when you’re asking people neutral questions, such as how many jelly beans are in a jar. But what about probing hot button political topics? Because people are more likely to adjust the facts of the world to match their beliefs than vice versa, prior theories claimed that a group of people who agree politically would be unable to use collective reasoning to arrive at a factual answer if it challenges their beliefs.

“Earlier this year, we showed that when Democrats and Republicans interact with each other within properly designed social media networks, it can eliminate polarization and improve both groups’ understanding of contentious issues such as climate change,” says senior author Damon Centola, Associate Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School. “Remarkably, our new findings show that properly designed social media networks can even lead to improved understanding of contentious topics within echo chambers.”

Becker and colleagues devised an experiment in which participants answered fact-based questions that stir up political leanings, like “How much did unemployment change during Barack Obama’s presidential administration?” or “How much has the number of undocumented immigrants changed in the last 10 years?” Participants were placed in groups of only Republicans or only Democrats and given the opportunity to change their responses based on the other group members’ answers.

The results show that individual beliefs in homogenous groups became 35% more accurate after participants exchanged information with one another. And although people’s beliefs became more similar to their own party members, they also became more similar to members of the other political party, even without any between-group exchange. This means that even in homogenous groups — or echo chambers — social influence increases factual accuracy and decreases polarization.

“Our results cast doubt on some of the gravest concerns about the role of echo chambers in contemporary democracy,” says co-author Ethan Porter, Assistant Professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. “When it comes to factual matters, political echo chambers need not necessarily reduce accuracy or increase polarization. Indeed, we find them doing the opposite….(More)… (Full Paper: “The Wisdom of Partisan Crowds“)

Report on Algorithmic Risk Assessment Tools in the U.S. Criminal Justice System


Press release: “The Partnership on AI (PAI) has today published a report gathering the views of the multidisciplinary artificial intelligence and machine learning research and ethics community which documents the serious shortcomings of algorithmic risk assessment tools in the U.S. criminal justice system. These kinds of AI tools for deciding on whether to detain or release defendants are in widespread use around the United States, and some legislatures have begun to mandate their use. Lessons drawn from the U.S. context have widespread applicability in other jurisdictions, too, as the international policymaking community considers the deployment of similar tools.

While criminal justice risk assessment tools are often simpler than the deep neural networks used in many modern artificial intelligence systems, they are basic forms of AI. As such, they present a paradigmatic example of the high-stakes social and ethical consequences of automated AI decision-making….

Across the report, challenges to using these tools fell broadly into three primary categories:

  1. Concerns about the accuracy, bias, and validity in the tools themselves
    • Although the use of these tools is in part motivated by the desire to mitigate existing human fallibility in the criminal justice system, this report suggests that it is a serious misunderstanding to view tools as objective or neutral simply because they are based on data.
  2. Issues with the interface between the tools and the humans who interact with them
    • In addition to technical concerns, these tools must be held to high standards of interpretability and explainability to ensure that users (including judges, lawyers, and clerks, among others) can understand how the tools’ predictions are reached and make reasonable decisions based on these predictions.
  3. Questions of governance, transparency, and accountability
    • To the extent that such systems are adapted to make life-changing decisions, tools and decision-makers who specify, mandate, and deploy them must meet high standards of transparency and accountability.

This report highlights some of the key challenges with the use of risk assessment tools for criminal justice applications. It also raises some deep philosophical and procedural issues which may not be easy to resolve. Surfacing and addressing those concerns will require ongoing research and collaboration between policymakers, the AI research community, civil society groups, and affected communities, as well as new types of data collection and transparency. It is PAI’s mission to spur and facilitate these conversations and to produce research to bridge such gaps….(More)”

Group decisions: When more information isn’t necessarily better


News Release from the Santa Fee Institute: “In nature, group decisions are often a matter of life or death. At first glance, the way certain groups of animals like minnows branch off into smaller sub-groups might seem counterproductive to their survival. After all, information about, say, where to find some tasty fish roe or which waters harbor more of their predators, would flow more freely and seem to benefit more minnows if the school of fish behaved as a whole. However, new research published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B sheds light on the complexity of collective decision-making and uncovers new insights into the benefits of the internal structure of animal groups.

In their paper, Albert Kao, a Baird Scholar and Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, and Iain Couzin, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and Chair of Biodiversity and Collective Behavior at the University of Konstanz, simulate the information-sharing patterns of animals that prefer to interact with certain individuals over others. The authors’ modeling of such animal groups upends previously held assumptions about internal group structure and improves upon our understanding of the influence of group organization and environment on both the collective decision-making process and its accuracy.

Modular — or cliquey — group structure isolates the flow of communication between individuals, so that only certain animals are privy to certain pieces of information. “A feature of modular structure is that there’s always information loss,” says Kao, “but the effect of that information loss on accuracy depends on the environment.”

In simple environments, the impact of these modular groups is detrimental to accuracy, but when animals face many different sources of information, the effect is actually the opposite. “Surprisingly,” says Kao, “in complex environments, the information loss even helps accuracy in a lot of situations.” More information, in this case, is not necessarily better.

“Modular structure can have a profound — and unexpected — impact on the collective intelligence of groups,” says Couzin. “This may indeed be one of the reasons that we see internal structure in so many group-living species, from schooling fish and flocking birds to wild primate groups.”

Potentially, these new observations could be applied to many different kinds of social networks, from the migration patterns of birds to the navigation of social media landscapes to the organization of new companies, deepening our grasp of complex organization and collective behavior….(More)”.

(The paper, “Modular structure within groups causes information loss but can improve decision accuracy,” is part of a theme issue in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B entitled “Liquid Brains, Solid Brains: How distributed cognitive architectures process information.” The issue was inspired by a Santa Fe Institute working group and edited by Ricard Solé (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Melanie Moses (University of New Mexico), and Stephanie Forrest (Arizona State University).

Building Trust in Human Centric Artificial Intelligence


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: “Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform our world for the better: it can improve healthcare, reduce energy consumption, make cars safer, and enable farmers to use water and natural resources more efficiently. AI can be used to predict environmental and climate change, improve financial risk management and provides the tools to manufacture, with less waste, products tailored to our needs. AI can also help to detect fraud and cybersecurity threats, and enables law enforcement agencies to fight crime more efficiently.

AI can benefit the whole of society and the economy. It is a strategic technology that is now being developed and used at a rapid pace across the world. Nevertheless, AI also brings with it new challenges for the future of work, and raises legal and ethical questions.

To address these challenges and make the most of the opportunities which AI offers, the Commission published a European strategy in April 2018. The strategy places people at the centre of the development of AI — human-centric AI. It is a three-pronged approach to boost the EU’s technological and industrial capacity and AI uptake across the economy, prepare for socio-economic changes, and ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework.

To deliver on the AI strategy, the Commission developed together with Member States a coordinated plan on AI, which it presented in December 2018, to create synergies, pool data — the raw material for many AI applications — and increase joint investments. The aim is to foster cross-border cooperation and mobilise all players to increase public and private investments to at least EUR 20 billion annually over the next decade.

The Commission doubled its investments in AI in Horizon 2020 and plans to invest EUR 1 billion annually from Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe Programme, in support notably of common data spaces in health, transport and manufacturing, and large experimentation facilities such as smart hospitals and infrastructures for automated vehicles and a strategic research agenda.

To implement such a common strategic research, innovation and deployment agenda the Commission has intensified its dialogue with all relevant stakeholders from industry, research institutes and public authorities. The new Digital Europe programme will also be crucial in helping to make AI available to small and medium-size enterprises across all Member States through digital innovation hubs, strengthened testing and experimentation facilities, data spaces and training programmes.

Building on its reputation for safe and high-quality products, Europe’s ethical approach to AI strengthens citizens’ trust in the digital development and aims at building a competitive advantage for European AI companies. The purpose of this Communication is to launch a comprehensive piloting phase involving stakeholders on the widest scale in order to test the practical implementation of ethical guidance for AI development and use…(More)”.

Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI


European Commission: “Following the publication of the draft ethics guidelines in December 2018 to which more than 500 comments were received, the independent expert group presents today their ethics guidelines for trustworthy artificial intelligence.

Trustworthy AI should respect all applicable laws and regulations, as well as a series of requirements; specific assessment lists aim to help verify the application of each of the key requirements:

  • Human agency and oversight: AI systems should enable equitable societies by supporting human agency and fundamental rights, and not decrease, limit or misguide human autonomy.
  • Robustness and safety: Trustworthy AI requires algorithms to be secure, reliable and robust enough to deal with errors or inconsistencies during all life cycle phases of AI systems.
  • Privacy and data governance: Citizens should have full control over their own data, while data concerning them will not be used to harm or discriminate against them.
  • Transparency: The traceability of AI systems should be ensured.
  • Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness: AI systems should consider the whole range of human abilities, skills and requirements, and ensure accessibility.
  • Societal and environmental well-being: AI systems should be used to enhance positive social change and enhance sustainability and ecological responsibility.
  • Accountability: Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure responsibility and accountability for AI systems and their outcomes.

In summer 2019, the Commission will launch a pilot phase involving a wide range of stakeholders. Already today, companies, public administrations and organisations can sign up to the European AI Alliance and receive a notification when the pilot starts.

Following the pilot phase, in early 2020, the AI expert group will review the assessment lists for the key requirements, building on the feedback received. Building on this review, the Commission will evaluate the outcome and propose any next steps….(More)”.