Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Steps to Enhance Transparency and Accountability at the National Science Foundation

National Science Foundation
January 13, 2015
Over the last year, the National Science Foundation has taken new steps to enhance transparency and accountability. This notice focuses on efforts to clarify NSF's award abstracts, which serve a different purpose than the project summary that is submitted as part of a proposal.

Effective December 26, 2014, NSF's updated Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 15-1) includes the following statement about award abstracts: "Should a proposal be recommended for award, the PI (Principal Investigator) may be contacted by the NSF Program Officer for assistance in preparation of the public award abstract and its title. An NSF award abstract, with its title, is an NSF document that describes the project and justifies the expenditure of Federal funds."  Read more

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Big-Data Scientists Face Ethical Challenges After Facebook Study

Paul Vooson, Chronicle of Higher Education
December 15, 2014
Though it may not feel like it when you see the latest identity-affirming listicle shared by a friend on Facebook, we are a society moving toward evidence. Our world is ever more quantified, and with such data, flawed or not, the tools of science are more widely applied to our decisions. We can do more than observe our lives, the idea goes. We can experiment on them.

No group lives that ethos more than the life-hacking coders of Silicon Valley. Trading on Internet-wired products that allow continuous updates and monitoring, programmers test their software while we use it, comparing one algorithmic tweak against another—the A/B test, as it’s known. As we browse the web, we are exposed to endless manipulations. Many are banal—what font gets you to click more?—and some are not.

Last summer the technologists discovered how unaware everyone else was of this new world. After Facebook, in collaboration with two academics, published a study showing how positive or negative language spreads among its users, a viral storm erupted. Facebook "controls emotions," headlines yelled. Jeffrey T. Hancock, a Cornell University professor of communications and information science who collaborated with Facebook, drew harsh scrutiny. The study was the most shared scientific article of the year on social media. Some critics called for a government investigation.  Read more