Newsblast Volume 4 Issue 5

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In the current issue of the Network Science Center Newsblast COL Kevin Huggins, Dr. Cyril Cassagnes, and Dr. John James discuss their research using tactical mobile clouds and dismounted troops to solve ‘big Army problems that Army science and technology must help solve’, specifically insufficient force protection through full spectrum operations, overburdened soldiers, and the lack of timely mission command and tactical intelligence. To read their article in this issue of the Network Science Center’s Newsblast, click here.

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Cadets Contribute to Research at Raffles Institute in Singapore

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During Spring Break, Tyree Meadows and I were given the opportunity to participate in a social network research project in Singapore with the Raffles Institute. The Raffles Institute, which is an elite government funded school, educates children and young adults from ages 13 to 18, or from about the 7th grade through a junior college level of education. While this school accepts the top three percent of the population, the student body is skewed in terms of ethnic demographics. The largest population represented at the school claims Chinese heritage, followed by a significantly smaller Indian origin, and finally, the least represented, Malay background. With these differing levels of ethnic representation there comes a question of whether individuals of various backgrounds are intermingling or primarily associating with people of a similar ethnic origin. As a country with an extremely diverse population, Singapore is actively seeking to reach racial harmony between the various subgroups in order to protect the future of the incredibly young country. To reach this harmony, the government of Singapore is actively placing individuals and families of certain ethnic backgrounds in close proximity in order to create additional contact between the groups. The purpose of our trip was to examine the social network between the students at Raffles and determine whether ethnic integration has or is occurring in the population at Raffles.

In our examination of the students, we planned to use various social networking principles to better identify the relationships between the students. Specifically, we used network homophily to assess which students were connected in friendship networks. Through the use of surveys and coded data, we were able to build networks that represented the three classes that we observed on our trip. These classes also participated in an outdoors immersion experience, which acted as catalyst for generating relationships among the students. During this experience, Tyree and I acted as participant-observers in order to gain a stronger understanding of the bonds between the students and to get an idea of the level of integration that was actually occurring during the trip. We joined the students in a variety of exciting activities that tested them both physically and mentally. These events included waterfall repelling, a challenging hike, and river scrambling. As the students moved through these events, we saw the students work as teams to help each other along the way, begin to form new relationships, and strengthen the ones already in place. When our observation time was over, the classes seemed much more united than before and also became much more comfortable in the outdoors. The Raffles students impressed us both with their extremely positive attitudes and willingness to try something new.

In addition to learning the cultural dynamics of the Raffle students we worked with, Tyree and I also made time to learn more about Singaporean culture at large. We spent time eating traditional dishes, visiting historical landmarks and spending times talking to natives. We also had the opportunity to bike around Singapore with some of the Raffles staff and learned so much more about Singaporean history than we ever expected from a bike trip. We had an absolutely fantastic experience learning about Singapore, the Raffles Institute and, most importantly, about the people of this wonderful country. So many people made us feel right at home in a country on the opposite side of the world from our home. Singapore was definitely one of the most interesting places that either one of us has ever traveled to. We would love the opportunity to visit again sometime and reunite with our new Singaporean friends.

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NetSci Cadets and Professor Present at University of Texas Africa Conference

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This past weekend two cadets and a professor affiliated with the Network Science Center presented their research at the 2014 University of Texas Africa Conference, “Diasporas, Old and New.”  The three presented as a panel named “Exiles, Rebels, and Revolutionaries: Armed Groups in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.”  Dr. Thomas presented on the organizations of Ugandan exiles that played a military and political role in overthrowing Idi Amin in the 1970s and how those groups fragmented following his overthrow.  CDT Emma Dugas presented on the connections between the Tutsi diaspora from Rwanda and the National Resistance Army of Yoweri Museveni in Uganda and how this has linked the two regional powers together through personal and political connections.  Finally, CDT Allen presented on the larger connections within the regional Tutsi Diaspora and how the current RPF regime in Rwanda is using these linkages to further their domestic and foreign agenda.  All three papers were very well received and attracted a large amount of questions from the audience.

In addition, Dr. Thomas was presented with an award at the Saturday Conference Banquet, being granted the 2014 Junior Scholar Excellence Award in African Studies.  This award is given to one junior faculty member a year in African studies and of 13 nominees, Dr. Thomas was selected.  He was quite surprised at the honor and is thankful to his colleagues and support network that have helped him through these first several years of his academic career.

 

Finally, Dr. Thomas and CDTs Allen and Dugas would like to thank Danielle Sanchez and Cacee Hoyer, the coordinators of the conference; Dr. Celine Jacquemin, the chair of their panel; and Dr. Toyin Falola, the convener of the Conference.  The Conference brought together over 200 academics and professionals involved in African Studies and provided a fertile ground for education, discussion, and camaraderie.  Every aspect was well run and it is hoped that West Point will continue to be represented at the Conference well into the future.

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Network Science and Expeditionary Economics

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In 2011, the United States Military Academy at West Point Social Sciences Department held its annual Senior Conference on Expeditionary Economics, which highlighted the military’s leading role in economic development, since post-conflict environments are initially too dangerous for U.S. government agencies and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) to operate. This military economic development has come to be known as “expeditionary economics.”

US Army Soldiers patrol a market in Northern Iraq

Successful future military operations will hinge on successful expeditionary economic efforts. Additionally, these concepts can be employed as a conflict prevention strategy. Successful economic development leads to security and stability, which will decrease the probability of possible kinetic operations.

While scholars and practitioners agree that expeditionary economic efforts are important, implementation remains a point of contention. Many believe that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) provide the vehicle for economic development. Successful entrepreneurs provide a sustainable solution to economic stagnation, in contrast to more common short-lived “infrastructural aid projects.” Specifically, SMEs supply local communities with jobs and resources, allowing citizens to earn living wages and contribute to the local economy. The ideal environment that fosters entrepreneurial progress is not yet known. A Network Science Center research team is currently investigating the optimal conditions under which developing entrepreneurs can prosper.

Ultimately, our team will develop new techniques to compare networks of entrepreneurs, which involve new metrics that go beyond classic centrality metrics. Nodes represent roles in the local environment, and links represent local perceptions of social capital. For an entrepreneur, Business Incubators may be perceived as the role that supplies access to start-up capital or Family may be perceived as the role that assists in acquiring necessary infrastructure. Our goal is to compare and contrast entrepreneurial ecosystems in different cities of developing countries. Specifically, we aim to answer the following question:

What is different, from a network perspective, about the entrepreneurial environment in cities where entrepreneurs thrive and cities where they do not?

For example, we know that Accra, Ghana has a more advanced entrepreneurial climate than many cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Can we determine and quantitatively represent the differences between this ecosystem and others that are less advanced?

Kampala Entrepreneurial Network Model developed after a data collection visit to Uganda. Nodes depicted in the network model are roles, or positions, in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the links illustrate how roles are connected through individuals’ perceptions of where to find required resources. Each node is sized according to its influence, and is colored by a grouping algorithm.

The team will then apply the aforementioned comparison techniques to compare “prosperous” and “non-prosperous” ecosystems. Cataloguing differences in network characteristics between the two reveals the “missing requirements for prosperity” of the latter. For example, certain roles may not be sufficiently prominent, or certain links might be missing. From a practical standpoint, we envision the ability to craft policy recommendations that bring a non-prosperous network to a prosperous state. For example, we might determine that commercial banks and technology incubators have very strong relationships in a prosperous-network, but weak relationships in its non-prosperous counterpart. To strengthen such a relationship, we might recommend that the government gives tax-breaks to commercial banks loaning to small business technology incubators.

Demonstration of network evolution to inform policy recommendations.

To validate our policy recommendations, we will compare our network metrics to traditional economic indicators. For example, do our network metrics correctly conclude that a particular ecosystem is non-prosperous? For additional validation, we will perform the same indicator comparisons in other problem spaces.

After the network comparison phase of this research, we will focus on real-world policy implementations for non-prosperous developing entrepreneurial ecosystems. Specifically, we seek to answer the following questions:

• Which policies should be implemented, when, and in what order?

• Can we enact the minimum number of policies in the most cost-effective manner?

These constitute an optimization problem, as well as a network design problem. The team will address issues such as determining the minimum number of policies to enact, or the minimum number of invasive policies to enact, that make the network in question prosperous. Alternatively, we might explore minimizing expenditures to make the network prosperous.

With the assistance of our collaborators at AfriLabs, a network of technology hubs on the African continent, the team has collected 4 initial data sets from Kampala, Uganda, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Lusaka, Zambia, and Monrovia, Liberia. We are beginning our initial analysis of these data sets in order to refine our network comparison techniques. Additionally, we will make visits to Accra, Ghana during the spring and a cadet team will visit Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in August.

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Cadet Research Accomplishments Recognized

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NSC Cadets Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

The Network Science Center had two cadet researchers awarded the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship: Cadet Damon Paulo (EECS/MATH) and Cadet Geoffrey Moores (EECS/PHYSICS). Additionally, Cadet Joseph Hannigan (EECS) was given an honorable mention. All three of these cadets have been heavily involved in Network Science research for over the past two years – and we are happy to see that their work has been recognized by the NSF. For more information, please visit https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/ .

CDT Hernandez recognized by the Chicago Police’s Superintendent

CDT Hernandez and Chicago Police Superintendent, Garry McCarthy

From March 17th-21st, CDT Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez worked with the Chicago Police to train them on the GANG (“GANG Analyzes Networks and Geography”) software (previously known as ORCA). The police are currently using this software to perform advanced social network analysis on the activities of criminal street gangs. The software adds advanced capabilities including geospatial analysis and visualization in addition to our social network tools. Cadet Hernandez has been working on this project for about a year, and during his visit he was recognized for his outstanding efforts by the Chicago Police Superintendent, Garry McCarthy.

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Newsblast Volume 4 Issue 4

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In the current issue of the Network Science Center Newsblast Dan Evans and Louis Boguchwal discuss how development of Small and Medium Enter-prises (SMEs) might be the answer to reduce high rates of youth unemployment and quell civil unrest in the middle east and north Africa. To read their article, ’Network Models of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Developing Economies’, in this issue of the Network Science Center’s Newsblast, click here .

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Network Science Education Events

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The Network Science Center would like to highlight two up-coming events for researchers and educators in network science education . If you are in the Bay Area 1-2 June see how you can get involved.

NetFest 2014: Bay Area Educators’ Day

June 1, 2014

The International Conference and School on Network Science (NetSci), the NetSci High Partnership and the National Science Foundation will invite San Francisco Bay Area educators and administrators to a free one-day celebration of the exploding new field of network science, to be held at UC Berkeley on June 1, 2014. The focus of the event will be 21st century STEM learning, and how educational leaders, teachers and informal educators can bring the excitement of networks and network science to students, families, faculty, and museum audiences. The day will be filled with hands-on activities, talks by top network science researchers and educators, student presentations, and intensive workshops.

For more information contact Catherine Cramer: ccramer@nysci.org

NetSciEd3: Satellite Symposium on Network Science in Education

NetSciEd provides an opportunity for the growing community of network scientists interested in education to come together and talk about their projects and programs, new tools and curriculum models.

Please join us on Monday June 2, 2014 from 8:00AM-1:00PM to discuss the latest developments and future directions for this vital community of NetSci researchers interested in helping grow the next generation.

NetSciEd3 will have a focus on network science teaching and learning at all levels of formal and informal education, as well as how network science helps inform and understand learning processes and organizations.

The morning will include presentations, posters, and a hands-on working roundtable in which we will collaboratively attempt to map NetSci concepts to formal curriculum frameworks. If you are interested in helping to promote Network Science as a field of science, you should be at this event! 

Topics to be discussed include:

* Teaching Teachers Network Science Concepts

* Network Science in K-16 Practice and Policy

* Network Science in Informal Education

* Tools for Teaching Network Science

* New Directions in Learning Science

* Developing Metrics for Effective Educational Collaboration Networks

For more information and to register: https://sites.google.com/a/nyscience.org/netscied3/

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Monsoon Winds and International Efforts

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Monsoons and International Efforts

Continuing in our series on Somali Piracy, we have recently been looking further into some of the hypotheses of the downturn in pirate actions off of the coast of Somalia.  One of the more compelling theories offered has been the question of cyclical downturns caused by the Monsoon Winds off of the Horn.  While the motherships of pirates are often decently seaworthy, the skiffs they rely on to actually capture targets would in theory be very susceptible to the strong currents and winds caused by the seasonal changes in the Indian Ocean.  This hypothesis was put forth particularly strongly by Australian Catholic University geographer Duncan Cook and co-author Sally Garrett of the New Zealand Defence Technology Agency who claimed the Summer Monsoon, which runs from late May until later September, essentially halted piracy activities.

The Somali Piracy Group, with its own year’s worth of data, decided to look at this discussion in terms of our own models and other sources of information.  While our own model did not see a significant downturn during this period of time, our incidents include not just acts of piracy on open waters but also the seizure of hostages on land and often the inter-group fighting among the pirates.  As such, the Monsoon winds would not have as much of an effect on our data as piracy activity is a constant in it no matter the oceanic conditions.  For specifically maritme view, one might look at the EU NAVFOR site which offers an overall breakdown of piracy activity over the past several years (http://eunavfor.eu/key-facts-and-figures/).  The helpful breakdown of attacks and even suspicious activity allows for a more broad-based conception of what is going on.  Using their statistical breakdown, a pattern emerges at least for the years 2009-2011.  In each of these, there is a significant drop during the May-September monsoon seasons, with the drop being most noticeable in 2009 (34 attacks in April dropping to 3 in June).  However, this pattern eventually recedes along with general piracy activity in 2011, which coincides with the sharp rise of International Efforts to deal with the piracy itself.

As such, although there appears to be a correlation, that correlation itself may not be especially helpful.  We see similar, although lesser fluctuations between November and January with inconsistencies throughout.  Of course, this also proves to be essentially moot starting in late 2011-early 2012 when the piracy attacks drop to nearly nothing.  At this point, International efforts had taken hold and most of the piracy has been suppressed through a combination of aggressive patrolling and a better understanding of which shipping lanes would be safe.   As such, although the Monsoon winds might cause a significant alteration in piracy patterns, those patterns have been far more altered by the interdiction of international authorities.

There is also one more piece of news I would like to share in this blog post —I will be departing West Point at the end of this Academic Year.  While I will miss the professional development, collegial atmosphere, and the chance to mentor cadets throughout their own journeys, all things must eventually end.  However, there are two mitigating factors.  The first is that my new appointment will be in the Department of Comparative Military Studies at the Air Command and Staff College, which means I will be able to continue my preferred task of educating our country’s servicemen.  The second is that my departure does not mean the ending of my affiliation with the Network Science Center.  The staff at ACSC has shown an appreciation for my research agenda and so hopefully I can continue my relationship with the amazing staff and faculty at the Network Science Center!

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Network Science at the Girls in STEM Workshop

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This past Saturday 80 girls from NY, NJ, PA, and CT all came together at West Point to learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. For half of these young women this included learning about network science through a hands-on challenge. The group got a quick introduction to network terminology and concepts then they worked in teams to explore and build political networks, networks found in cities, and finally to visualize networks from their Facebook and email interactions. The challenge gave these young women a better understanding of different networks they interact with every day and why researchers study them.

One NYC teacher commented, ‘Thank you for letting me know about the STEM workshop last weekend. Four of my girls attended and LOVED it. It was a great opportunity and definitely renewed/reconfirmed their love of science’.

 

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Newsblast Volume 4 Issue 3

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In the current issue of the Network Science Center Newsblast Dr. James Gatewood discusses how mathematical modelling, networks, and smart technologies are shaping and influencing cities. Click here to read this issue of the Network Science Center’s Newsblast.

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