What I learned at Sunbelt 2015

July 7, 2015

 

1. Statnet Web is the first interactive interface for the ergm package. Using Shiny tools, it is a web application that brings the powerful modeling algorithms without the burden of the R code. The whole process is more transparent and inviting for the non-experts.
 
2. Social capital is a multifaceted concept. It can be thought of in terms of bridging versus bonding (Putnam), brokerage and structural holes (Burt), strength of weak ties (Granovetter), classical capital theory (Marx), or neo-capital theories (Bourdieu). Pick your theoretical framework carefully.
 
3. Historical networks are just cool. One researcher used 17th century baptism records to reconstruct relations between individuals in two Dutch towns.
 
4. Ethics in social network research needs attention. Advisory articles are few, guidelines are absent, and social network methods build upon unique data. This leads to Institutional Review Boards coming down overly harshly on research projects.
 
5. A novel network intervention to treat hepatitis C is the TAP study. Using a “Bring your friends” social network approach, this study treats people who inject drugs and have hepatitis C using novel anti-virals. Importantly, using modeling, they found that an egocentric approach was as effective as full network mapping. These results will be important to monitor.
 
6. The social fabric project in Denmark tracks the activities of 600 undergraduates over 3 years. Data includes proximity to each other, Facebook, text messaging, and phone usage. Mind-boggling data and access.
 
7. OpenEdi and EgoWeb 2.0 are ushering in the new era of interactive network survey tools to intuitively collect data on tablets or desktop computers.
 

 

 

 

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Amar Dhand, MD DPhil

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