BOX 6.1
From an IGERT Project to an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program

In 1999, Kathleen Carley, committee member and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, received an IGERT award to study social complexity and change using computational analysis of social and organizational data. The primary methods used in the project were network analysis, agent-based modeling, and statistical models of dynamic systems, and students took courses in network analysis, computer simulation, statistics, algorithms or machine learning, and organization or policy science. Students could come from any department in the university, and the course of study was overseen by advisors from the home department, a computer science department, and a social science department Over the 1 0-year lifespan of the project, 18 students received some support from the program and 10 others became affiliates.

Shortly after the IGERT project began, several other educational initiatives that blended computer science and social, organizational, or policy science were started at Carnegie Mellon University. Because these programs were spread over many departments and colleges, mentoring the growing number of students became increasingly difficult. By 2001, several faculty with interdisciplinary interests in computer science and the social and organizational sciences had moved their appointments to the Institute for Software Research, a new department in the College of Computer Science. These faculty banded together to form the Computation and Organization Science (COS) Ph.D. program, which became a standing program in 2004.

The COS curriculum was designed after the IGERT curriculum, but was expanded to include a policy component. The COS program is aimed at producing new Ph.D.s capable of (1) assessing the social or policy impact of new computational technologies, such as crowdsourcing technologies for disaster response; and (2) designing, developing, and testing new computational technologies that will affect humans at the societal, cultural, or policy level, such as new cell-phone applications that track and share the movements of individuals. Students are taught the basics of social network analysis and the advanced methods integral to dynamic network analysis, and the program of study is tailored through electives that can be taken in any of the colleges at Carnegie Mellon University Special attention is placed on geo-enab led network analytics Where the goal is to track the reg ion of influence of actors of interest or to identify how to disrupt terror or piracy networks in a region, the combination of social and spatial information and the use of unified tools is criticaL Through a combination of project-based courses and research, the students acquire knowledge, skills, and practical experience needed to contribute to advances in these areas.

Today the COS program has 27 Ph.D. students and 18 alumni who are employed in both industry and academia. Students trained in networks, and in particular those with a strong computational or geo-network background, are in high demand. However, the number of qualified students applying to conduct research in this area far exceeds the available fellowships, research grants, and industry support for master’s programs.


FIGURE 6.2 Screenshot of a Sudan game intervention: spreading beliefs to reduce levels of intertribal hostility. SOURCE: Courtesy of the USC GamePipe Laboratory.

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