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Illustration: Created by Davide Bonazzi for Science magazine, “Research on research” | Disclaimer: All illustrations are included as an appreciation of the talent of science illustrators with reference to their name, the original source that commissioned the artwork (wherever available) or the portfolio of the artist

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.” — Carl Sagan

We live in a strange time.

In less than a year NASA will launch its 2020 Mars rover mission probing the possibility of habitable conditions on the Red Planet. Meanwhile, YouTuber Logan Paul is sending people to Antarctica on a “visionary expedition” which intends to “reach the end of the world and prove the Earth is flat”. Advances in science and medicine have helped us eradicate smallpox and rinderpest and are working towards eradicating polio, yaws, rubella and various parasitic worm diseases. …


Looking at data is not enough: we must think critically about its limitations, assumptions & context

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Access to information is a blessing for those of us who are congenitally infected with curiosity about the world, but it can also be a curse. Overexposure to data can easily conjure up the illusion that we are informed enough to truly understand complex issues beyond the scope of our training and knowledge

Data is ubiquitous. We are under a constant barrage of information, summed up in think pieces, or propped up in graphs and infographics. The more an issue impacts everyday life, the more tempted we are to confuse mere access to information with an in-depth understanding of an issue. COVID-19 is a major case in point.

We are in the centre of a media storm with information coming in from all kinds of sources: from traditional media coverage to all kinds of user-generated content (UGC) by scientists and non-experts alike. Sometimes it is easy to spot a myth or conspiracy theory but not always. …


A short version of this article appeared in collaboration with DeLange Analytics*, a member of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC)

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Somehow we all woke up in the same dystopian novel. Normalcy reigned supreme just a few days or weeks ago (depending on where we are located on the planet), but now we find ourselves in unchartered social territory: physically isolated but digitally submerged under a tidal wave of traditional media coverage and social conversations about a single, overwhelming global topic.

No topic in recent history has dominated the media landscape across borders, age groups and media channels so invasively and so consistently. Platforms like Sprinklr detect more than 19mln daily mentions at the current peak of media attention and Google Trends worldwide data shows that web searches for the topic have persisted at values between 88 and 100 between in the past 5 days (Mar 12–17), accompanied by a similar peak in global YouTube searches*(a peak of 100 indicates peak popularity for the term). Brandwatch data shows the global conversation exceeds 344M mentions for the last 3 months with English mentions averaging about 10K mentions of the virus every minute.


Data exercise in Python on the Seattle Rental Market

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Photo by Breno Assis on Unsplash

Background

Seattle was a very different place 11 years ago. When I lived there, the biggest city in Washington state had a population of slightly more than half a million (2.9 mln if you count the broader Seattle Metropolitan Area). Since Amazon moved into its South Lake Union headquarters in 2010, the city’s population, prices and housing costs soared, combining economic growth with a downward housing spiral.

This trend is slowly starting to shift and taper off due to a surge in new property building which slows down rent growth. Nevertheless, housing remains an issue. A combination of factors shapes the state of the housing market in Seattle and other big cities across the world: starting from land availability (constrained by geography and urban planning), housing subsidies and taxes; increasingly exorbitant rent market prices, housing supply, mortgage interest rates, construction costs, as well as internal and international migration. Supply is also increasingly affected by demand by foreign investors and private buyers (primarily from China). …


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“ Creativity requires input, and that’s what research is. You’re gathering material with which to build” — Gene Luen Yang

People often intuitively oppose science to art and creativity. However, the intersection of seemingly opposing fields is where the best research projects can happen. Innovation and scientific discovery are , definition taking a step into a new direction or approaching an old problem from a (creative) new viewpoint.

What is ResBaz?

Research Bazaar is a conference promoting digital literacy across all research fields. It essentially puts you in a venue full of interesting smart people with curious minds and offers you a platter of different talks and workshops, which you can enjoy as you please, mixing traditional learning with interactive tasks, ideas exchange, networking and collaboration.


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Time is our most valuable resource

Valuable resources are limited and time is our most valuable resource. We can optimise our day or prioritise some choices over others, but we cannot create more time or replace the time we have wasted on activities which add no value to our life…So why are we so careless with how we use this limited resource?

According to research by Global Web Index, people spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social media and messaging platforms.


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Wellington CBD (without the whale) lensed from Mount Victoria Lookout | Photo: Konstantina Vasileva

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” — Zora Neale Hurston

If research is “formalized curiosity”, data is the tool which makes sure that we are not just curious but also capable of collecting systematic evidence and being accountable for our pursuits. Whether you are a scientist, marketer working in a commercial organisation, data journalist, or a researcher in the humanities: it is essential to know the right tools and techniques to analyse and interpret data (and hopefully turn it into a compelling narrative).

ResBaz: Time to be curious together

In just 2 days (+1 if you signed up for Software Carpentry) ResBaz Wellington created the perfect playing ground for curious researchers from a wide variety of fields.


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Photo by Michael Allen

The unprecedented role of social media and fake news in nudging voting behavior in the recent US elections has been in the spotlight of everything from investigative articles to academic papers.

Recent Criticism

In a recent thought-provoking piece (Fiction is outperforming reality) The Guardian focused on the role of YouTube (alongside Facebook and Twitter sock puppets) in consistently exposing online users to substantial amounts of dubious content. According to their investigation, algorithms can be tricked to recommend increasingly sensational, manipulative and often fake content designed to nudge users towards ever more extreme views.

Guillaume Chaslot, ex-Google engineer, supports this view with his personal project AlgoTransparency.org. Mimicking an account with no viewing history, his project simulates how by starting with an unbiased search for information, viewers end up exposed to an ever more biased content via each subsequent step of YouTube recommendations. …


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Photo by Michael Allen

The unprecedented role of social media and fake news in nudging voting behavior in the recent US elections has been in the spotlight of everything from investigative articles to academic papers.

In a recent thought-provoking piece (Fiction is outperforming reality) The Guardian focused on the role of YouTube (alongside Facebook and Twitter sock puppets) in consistently exposing online users to substantial amounts of dubious content. According to their investigation, algorithms can be tricked to recommend increasingly sensational, manipulative and often fake content designed to nudge users towards ever more extreme views.

Guillaume Chaslot, ex-Google engineer, supports this view with his personal project AlgoTransparency.org. Mimicking an account with no viewing history, his project simulates how by starting with an unbiased search for information, viewers end up exposed to an ever more biased content via each subsequent step of YouTube recommendations. …


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Photo by Bryan Apen

The ability to successfully communicate with others has a significant impact on all major aspects of life: from personal relationships to job success and overall quality of life. When it comes to work, David Deming (Harvard University) shows that social skills are becoming an increasingly stronger predictor of labour market success and longitudinal studies on relationships by John Gottman (University of Washington) indicate that patterns of gridlock and dialogue can predict whether a relationship will survive in the long run.

Common Mistakes & How to Fix Them:

Clearly, fostering good communication skills is crucial for both personal and professional development. Recognizing and avoiding communication pitfalls is the first step to identifying what you need to do to improve your experience across multiple areas of life. …

About

Konstantina Vasileva

Analyst & STEM researcher based in Wellington, NZ | Too curious to wear just one hat

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