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Past Events › IDSS Distinguished Seminar Series

A monthly lecture series featuring prominent global leaders and academics sharing research in areas that are impacted by the emergence of big data.

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February 2019

Collective Decision Making: Theory and Experiments

February 5, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Leeat Yariv (Princeton University)


Abstract: Ranging from jury decisions to political elections, situations in which groups of individuals determine a collective outcome are ubiquitous. There are two important observations that pertain to almost all collective processes observed in reality. First, decisions are commonly preceded by some form of communication among individual decision makers, such as jury deliberations, or election polls. Second, even when looking at a particular context, say U.S. civil jurisdiction, there is great variance in the type of institutions that are employed…

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December 2018

The Opportunity Atlas: Mapping the Childhood Roots of Social Mobility

December 3, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Raj Chetty (Harvard University)


Abstract: We construct a publicly available atlas of children’s outcomes in adulthood by Census tract using anonymized longitudinal data covering nearly the entire U.S. population. For each tract, we estimate children’s earnings distributions, incarceration rates, and other outcomes in adulthood by parental income, race, and gender. These estimates allow us to trace the roots of outcomes such as poverty and incarceration back to the neighborhoods in which children grew up. We find that children’s outcomes vary sharply across nearby areas: for children of parents at…

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November 2018

The Regression Discontinuity Design: Methods and Applications

November 5, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Rocio Titiunik (University of Michigan)


Abstract: The Regression Discontinuity (RD) design is one of the most widely used non-experimental strategies for the study of treatment effects in the social, behavioral, biomedical, and statistical sciences. In this design, units are assigned a score and a treatment is offered if the value of that score exceeds a known threshold---and withheld otherwise. In this talk, I will discuss the assumptions under which the RD design can be used to learn about treatment effects, and how to make valid…

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October 2018

Can machine learning survive the artificial intelligence revolution?

October 16, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Francis Bach (INRIA)


  Abstract: Data and algorithms are ubiquitous in all scientific, industrial and personal domains. Data now come in multiple forms (text, image, video, web, sensors, etc.), are massive, and require more and more complex processing beyond their mere indexation or the computation of simple statistics, such as recognizing objects in images or translating texts. For all of these tasks, commonly referred to as artificial intelligence (AI), significant recent progress has allowed algorithms to reach performances that were deemed unreachable a…

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September 2018

Science for Policy 2.0

September 11, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Vladimír Šucha (Joint Research Centre)


We live in an increasingly polarized present, looking to a complex and uncertain future while basing our legislative decisions on systems of the past. We need the processes and structures that underpin our political decision-making to be aligned with the complexities of the 21st century. Such changes cannot be undertaken by a technocratic elite, potentially disenfranchising citizens further from their governing institutions. Rather, political institutions must seek to improve transparency, openness, and accountability. The great divide between science and policy…

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May 2018

IDSS Distinguished Seminar – Conflict in Networks: The Rise and Fall of Empires

May 1, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Sanjeev Goyal (University of Cambridge)

MIT Building 32, Room 141

Abstract In the study of war, a recurring observation is that conflict between two opponents is shaped by third parties. The actions of these parties are in turn influenced by other proximate players. These considerations lead us to propose a model of conflict in a network. We study the influence of resources, technology, and the network of connections on the dynamics of war and the prospects of peace. Bio Sanjeev Goyal is Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge…

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April 2018

Computational Social Science: Exciting Progress and Future Challenges

April 3, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Duncan Watts (Microsoft Research, NYC)

MIT Building 32, Room 141

 Abstract The past 15 years have witnessed a remarkable increase in both the scale and scope of social and behavioral data available to researchers, leading some to herald the emergence of a new field: “computational social science.” In this talk I highlight two areas of research that would not have been possible just a handful of years ago: first, using “big data” to study social contagion on networks; and second, using virtual labs to extend the scale, duration, and…

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February 2018

Machine Learning and Causal Inference

February 6, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Susan Athey (Stanford University)

MIT Building 32, Room 141

Abstract: This talk will review a series of recent papers that develop new methods based on machine learning methods to approach problems of causal inference, including estimation of conditional average treatment effects and personalized treatment assignment policies. Approaches for randomized experiments, environments with unconfoundedness, instrumental variables, and panel data will be considered. Bio: Susan Athey is The Economics of Technology Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. She received her bachelor's degree from Duke University and her Ph.D. from Stanford,…

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December 2017

IDSS Distinguished Seminar – Essential Concepts of Causal Inference: A Remarkable History

December 12, 2017 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Donald Rubin (Harvard University)

MIT Building 32, Room 141

  Abstract I believe that a deep understanding of cause and effect, and how to estimate causal effects from data, complete with the associated mathematical notation and expressions, only evolved in the twentieth century. The crucial idea of randomized experiments was apparently first proposed in 1925 in the context of agricultural field trails but quickly moved to be applied also in studies of animal breeding and then in industrial manufacturing. The conceptual understanding, to me at least, was tied to…

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November 2017

Social Network Experiments – Nicholas Christakis (Yale University)

November 7, 2017 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

MIT Building 32, Room 141

The Institute of Data, Systems, and Society host monthly talks by academic and industry leaders from around the world for the IDSS Distinguished Lecture series.

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