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Back in April, Facebook announced that it would be working with a group of academics to establish an independent research commission to look into issues of social and political significance using the company’s own extensive data collection. That commission just came out of stealth; it’s called Social Science One, and its first project will have researchers analyzing about a petabyte’s worth of sharing data.
The way the commission works is basically that a group of academics is created and given full access to the processes and datasets that Facebook could potentially provide. They identify and help design interesting sets based on their experience as researchers themselves, then document them publicly — for instance, “this dataset consists of 10 million status updates taken during the week of the Brexit vote, structured in such and such a way.”
Documentation - Set - Request - Proposals - Research
This documentation describing the set doubles as a “request for proposals” from the research community. Other researchers interested in the data propose analyses or experiments, which are evaluated by commission. These proposals are then granted (according to their merit) access to the data, funding, and other privileges. Resulting papers will be peer reviewed with help from the Social Science Research Council, and can be published without being approved (or even seen) by Facebook.
“The data collected by private companies has vast potential to help social scientists understand and solve society’s greatest challenges. But until now that data has typically been unavailable for academic research,” said Social Science One co-founder, Harvard’s Gary King, in a blog post announcing the initiative. “Social Science One has established an ethical structure for marshaling privacy preserving industry data for the greater social good while ensuring full academic publishing freedom.”
Specifics - Partnership - Paper
If you’re curious about the specifics of the partnership, it’s actually been described in a paper of its own, available here.
The first dataset is...
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