Centre for Computational Social Science launches at UBC

Research Excellence | Strategy 6: Collaborative Clusters
Theme: Innovation

In recent years, social scientists have gained access to previously unimaginable quantities of social data and computing power. This has unlocked new opportunities to reveal hidden truths about social movements, power, inequality, technology and politics.

But it has also raised challenges and important ethical questions. How should data about human behaviour be tracked? What are the risks of increased surveillance? How can algorithms be better designed to mitigate human biases? And how can social scientists keep up with the explosive growth of big data?

The Centre for Computational Social Science is launching at UBC this fall with an aim to address these questions and also to serve as an intellectual and pedagogical hub for cutting edge computational social science scholarship. Housed in the Faculty of Arts, the Centre will promote interdisciplinary scholarship within and between social science disciplines, focusing on how data and computation can advance our understanding of society, but also how data and computation are implicated in forms of power and inequality.

Sociology professor Dr. Laura Nelson is the inaugural director of the Centre. In her own work, she has used computational techniques to uncover why gender inequality persists in academia, startups, and the healthcare sector; whose histories are left out of Wikipedia; and how the media’s coverage of environmental activism has shifted over the past two decades.

In the blink of an eye our social and cultural world has metamorphosed with technological innovations rapidly transforming our social world – from how and with whom we interact, to how we identify, how we shop and how we play and create. Computational social science has contributed insights into questions around the diversity of human languages and how we communicate globally, what it means to be human, and what we value as a society.

Dr. Laura Nelson, Director, Centre for Computational Social Science

The Faculty of Arts spoke with Dr. Nelson about about what the Centre hopes to achieve and why computational methods will be key to solving the societal issues we will face in the future.. Please visit the Faculty of Arts website to read the full interview.

Through Strategy 6: Collaborative Clusters, we are providing researchers with the support needed to collaborate internally across UBC and externally with local and global partners.