July 22, 2012
Young sociologists might assume that the section has been around a long time. I just came across this:
History of the Formation of the Section, 1994-6
by David Heise, Indiana University, Chair of the section 2003-4. This appeared in The Mathematical
Sociologist, Newsletter of the Mathematical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association ,
The first formal activity leading to the Mathematical Sociology Section occurred at a Professional
Workshop instigated and chaired by John Angle at the 1994 American Sociological Association annual
meeting in Los Angeles. After this workshop revealed genuine interest in creating a section, Eugene
Johnsen, with the assistance of a Steering Committee, produced a Mission Statement for a Mathematical
Sociology Section and, later, the By-Laws. The Steering Committee consisted of most of those involved in
the 1994 Workshop: John Angle, Stephen Berkowitz, Phillip Bonacich, Scott Feld, Sharlene Hesse-Biber,
James Hollander, Guillermina Jasso, Eugene Johnsen, Joel Levine, Timothy Liao, David McFarland, Alton
Okinaka, John Skvoretz, and Geoffrey Tootell.
A determined effort was made in the early years to bring the group’s interests to the attention of
sociologists in general and to display vital activities to the ASA. Eugene Johnsen organized and chaired a
Professional Workshop on “The Practice of Mathematical Sociology” at the 1995 ASA Meeting in
Washington D.C., with five invited speakers presenting papers. For the 1996 ASA Annual Meeting in New
York the section-in-formation proposed and received ASA approval for a Didactic Seminar by Stanley
Wasserman on social network analysis. At the 1997 ASA Meeting in Toronto, Phillip Bonacich presented
a Didactic Seminar, sponsored by the recently formed Mathematical Sociology Section
July 16, 2012
A friend asked me about where he might find education data to practice/play with.
Here are some links I came up with:
June 19, 2012
It’s been a while, i know. So something dramatic must have happened. Multiple dramatic things have happened, but one in particular drove me to dust off my WP login. This article on obesity has been rapidly making the rounds (i’ve seen it linked no less than a dozen times since yesterday afternoon). It’s got lots of interesting information in it and easily quotable lines. But in virtually every single cite i’ve seen of it so far (on Facebook, news articles, etc.), the same finding has been quoted as the most striking punchline of the article, but has, in every case misrepresented what that finding actually is. The line from the article that matters is this (from the abstract):
North America has 6% of the world population but 34% of biomass due to obesity.
The quotes of that finding i’ve seen thus far however have inevitably been framed as:
North America has 6% of the world population but 34% of biomass.
A seemingly innocuous edit, but resulting in a complete misrepresentation of what the study actually found. What the analysis shows is that if you limit the analysis only to account for the obesity in the world (i.e., we look only at the “excess” weight) on the planet, N. America accounts for 34% of that amount. Not 34% of all biomass. In order for the citation as it’s making the rounds to be true, the average N. American would have to weigh 371 kg (or roughly 818 pounds; calculations stem from Table 3 in the paper). Now part of the problem is the way things are written as most people aren’t used to having to do a little simple math to digest their research blurbs, but sometimes it’s completely necessary to be sure you aren’t completely lead astray.
Now, i’m not trying to diminish the findings in the article, as i think they have done a good job of demonstrating how weight is unevenly distributed across the globe. Just not in the way people are saying they’ve said it is.
June 2, 2012
What articles and books have sociologists been citing a lot recently? See the list compiled by Neal Caren. He also made a cool network diagram showing which articles are cited together.
May 3, 2012
You’ve heard me say it before… Crowdsourced websites like StackOverflow and Wikipedia are changing the world. Everyone is familiar with Wikipedia, but most people still haven’t heard about the StackExchange brand question and answer sites. If you look into their success, I think you’ll begin to see how the combination of crowdsourcing and online reputation systems is going to revolutionize academic publishing and peer-review.
Do you know what’s happened to computer programming since the founding of StackOverflow, the first StackExchange question and answer site? It has become a key part of every programmer’s continuing education, and for many it is such an essential tool that they can’t imagine working a single day without it.
StackOverflow began in 2008, and since then more than 1 million people have created accounts, more than 3 million questions have been asked, and more than 6 million answers provided (see Wikipedia entry). Capitalizing on that success, StackExchange, the company which started StackOverflow, has begun a rapid expansion into other fields where people have questions. Since most of my readers do more statistics than programming, you might especially appreciate the Stack Exchange for statistics (aka CrossValidated). You can start exploring at my profile on the site or check out this interesting discussion of machine learning and statistics.
How do the Stack Exchange sites work?
The four most common forms of participation are question asking, question answering, commenting, and voting/scoring. Experts are motivated to answer questions because they enjoy helping, and because good answers increase their prominently advertised reputation score. Indeed, each question, answer, and comment someone makes be voted up or down by anyone with a certain minimum reputation score. Questions/answers/comments each have a score next to them, corresponding to their net-positive votes. Users have an overall reputation score. Answers earn their author 10 points per up-vote, questions earn 5, and comments earn 2. As users gain reputation, they earn administrative privileges
, and more importantly, respect in the community. Administrative privileges include the ability to edit, tag, or even delete other people’s responses. These and other administrative contributions also earn reputation, but most reputation is earned through questions and answers. Users also earn badges, which focuses attention on the different types of contributions.
Crowdsourcing is based on the idea that knowledge is diffuse, but web technology makes it much easier to harvest distributed knowledge. A voting and reputation system isn’t necessary for all forms of crowdsourcing, but as the web matures, we’re seeing voting and reputation systems being applied in more and more places with amazing results.
To name a handful the top of my head:
- A couple of my friends are involved in a startup called ScholasticaHQ which is facilitating peer-review for academic journals, and also offers social networking and question and answer features.
- The stats.stackexchange.com has an open-source competitor in http://metaoptimize.com/qa/ which works quite similarly. Their open-source software can and is being applied to other topics.
- http://www.reddit.com is a popular news story sharing and discussion site where users vote on stories and comments.
- http://www.quora.com/ is another general-purpose question and answer site.
It isn’t quite as explicit, but internet giants like google and facebook are also based on the idea of rating and reputation.
A growing number of academics blog, and people have been discussing how people could get academic credit for blogging. People like John Ioannidis are calling attention to how difficult it is to interpret the a scientific literature because of publication bias and other problems. Of course thoughtful individuals have other concerns about academic publishing. Many of these concerns will be addressed soon, with the rise of crowdsourcing and online reputation systems.
April 16, 2012
Why isn’t that question asked in every survey? This is from the Add Health inhome interview. I will run my analysis separately by each possible response to this question to look for differences.