Dan Hirschman, grad student at the University of Michigan, has a great post on rational choice theory. It is framed as a critique, but I consider it wholly compatible with my defense of RCT. Human behavior is complex and different aspects of it will be best understood with different theories/models/levels of analysis. See some of my previous posts on modeling here.
Graduate students who are interested in large-scale networks should read this post by Tom Lento, who is a data scientist at Facebook (and a Cornell sociology grad), about Facebook’s new graduate fellowship program.
It’s pretty frustrating that, given the quasi-social science Facebook is doing, the listing does not explicitly mention social science disciplines, but I have gotten word that social scientists with appropriately strong computational skills (i.e. candidate should be a reasonably competent programmer) can be considered.
That said, it’s great that Facebook is willing to work with academics, especially graduate students, to do interesting things that might have some general scientific benefit (in addition to direct product benefit). This puts them in the category of Microsoft, IBM, HP, Google, Yahoo, and other such tech companies, who also fund sizable graduate student internship programs.
Facebook has a treasure trove of micro-level interaction data. If you want to work with that data, this might be the best way to do it.
Most quantitative social scientists, myself included, master particular statistical techniques, but have limited understanding of the breadth or history of statistical practice. Academic specialization is necessary, but sometimes we could learn a lot by taking a broader view. I found it interesting to learn a little more about some of the most influential statisticians and their contributions in this article by Daniel Wright: “Ten Statisticians and their Impacts for Psychologists.”
Though I enjoyed Wright’s piece, one thing I felt was missing was a connection to philosophy and sociology of science. What are the goals of empirical research in the social sciences? How have the methods these statisticians invented changed social science, and science more generally?
Wright, D. (2009). Ten Statisticians and Their Impacts for Psychologists Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4 (6), 587-597 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01167.x