Computational social science conference set for Sept. 11-12

As a leader in research at the intersection of computer/information science and the social sciences, Cornell has helped to define and create the field of computational social science.

On Sept. 11-12, Cornell will host a conference showcasing cutting-edge research in the field and featuring alumni and other noted scholars in the discipline.

“This conference comes at an important time, just as we’re expanding our commitment to computational social sciences by opening a search for a joint position in the College of Arts and Sciences and Computing and Information Science,” says Gretchen Ritter, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences. “The interdisciplinary cooperation necessary to successfully conduct research in this field is a hallmark of Cornell and is a major reason for Cornell’s leadership in the field.”

The collaborative nature of computational social science at Cornell is reflected in the team of conference organizers, which includes faculty from the departments of computer science and information science, sociology, government and economics.

“One of the most exciting frontiers in all of research is the interface between the social sciences and computing and information science,” says Greg Morrisett, dean of the Faculty of Computing and Information Science. “Technology has provided us with a huge array of new data sources that, with the right statistical models and algorithms, can provide stunning new insights into economics, sociology, psychology, etc. At the same time, we are just now starting to apply the principles and foundations of these fields to develop technology that leads to better societal outcomes.”

The conference will begin with an overview by Duncan Watts, Ph.D. ’97, titled “Computational Social Science: Exciting Progress and Future Challenges.” Watts is the principal researcher and founding member of Microsoft Research Lab in Manhattan and a Cornell A.D. White Professor-at-Large.

Additional alumni participating are Sendhil Mullainathan ’93, professor of economics at Harvard University, speaking on “Prediction Policy Problems,” and Lars Backstrom ’04, MS ’08, Ph.D. ‘09, head of News Feed for Facebook, who will speak on “Generating a Billion Personalized Experiences.”

Industry representatives include Lada Adamic, head of Facebook’s Product Science Group, who will speak on “Exposure to Ideologically Diverse News and Opinion on Facebook,” and David Pennock, Microsoft Research’s principal research and assistant managing director, speaking on “Designing Wagering Mechanisms.”

The conference will be held in 701 Clark Hall (the Hans Bethe Seminar Room) and is free, though registration is required. Email Amy Moesch at or call 607-255-5617 to register. For more information, see

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts & Sciences.

More News from A&S