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It seems Christmas is coming early this year for social scientists.
That's because, just months after Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor Gary King wrote an academic paper about a system that would allow researchers to access the massive data troves held by Facebook and other private companies, it is set to become a reality.
Collaborator - Nathaniel - Persily - Stanford - King
Along with his collaborator Nathaniel Persily at Stanford, King created an organization called Social Science One which will lead the effort to identify data inside Facebook, prepare it for researchers, and fund numerous scholars to analyze the data.
The organization is today making the first of what King says will be many data sets available for research—a massive trove of more than half a trillion numbers that includes every link ever clicked on by Facebook users in the last year, including the types of people who clicked, what they clicked on, and indicators for whether links were judged to be intentionally false news stories.
Scientists - Goal - Challenges - Society - King
"As social scientists, our goal is to understand and solve the greatest challenges that affect human society," King said. "Twenty years ago, almost all the data in the world to address these challenges was created by those of us in the academy, by governments and given to us, or by private companies and sold to us," he said. "But the problem is that even though we have more data than ever before, we have a smaller fraction of the data that the world is creating. Most of the data that would be useful for social science is now locked up inside private companies. Social Science One is an important mechanism for unlocking that data for social scientists."
And the amount of data they'll have access to is almost beyond imagining.
Data - Access - Quantity - Total
"The data we're going to be providing access to is extraordinary—in quantity it may rival the total...
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Millions in tribute, but not a penny left for charity.