MIT Sloan to Host Conference on Digital Experimentation

Fireside panelists to address Facebook contagion study

CODE 2014

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--()--Analyzing big data on a granular scale can tell us a lot about human behavior. Whether it’s with web traffic, social media data, or search trends, the ability to perform randomized digital experiments about micro-level behaviors at a population scale is a significant innovation in modern social science. However, the scale and complexity of these experiments creates scientific, statistical and ethical challenges. On Oct. 10-11, the MIT Sloan School of Management will host the Conference on Digital Experimentation (CODE), bringing together leading researchers to discuss these cutting-edge issues and lay the foundation for a multidisciplinary research community.

“Randomized experiments are the gold standard of causal inference and a cornerstone of effective policy,” says MIT Sloan Prof. Sinan Aral, who is a faculty co-host of the conference along with Prof. Erik Brynjolfsson and Sandy Pentland of the MIT Media Lab. “Digital experiments allow us to quickly answer nuanced causal questions about the role of social behavior in population-level outcomes like health, voting, political mobilization, consumer demand, opinion aggregation and economic development.”

CODE will feature presentations and panel discussions on topics such as experimental design, mobile experiments, collective action, social influence bias, viral incentives, and experiments in systems design. Invited speakers include:

  • Eric T. Anderson, professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and director of the Center for Global Marketing Practice;
  • Susan Athey, former chief economist at Microsoft and professor of economics at Stanford University;
  • Eric Horvitz, director of the Microsoft Research lab at Redmond;
  • Jeremy Howard, data strategist at Khosla Ventures, co-founder of Kaggle and an entrepreneur, business strategist, developer and educator;
  • Ron Kohavi, general manager for Microsoft’s Analysis and Experimentation Team at Microsoft’s Application and Services Group;
  • Karim R. Lakhani, professor at Harvard Business School;
  • John Langford, machine learning research scientist at Microsoft;
  • Claudia Perlich, chief scientist at Dstillery (formerly Media6Degrees);
  • David Reiley, research scientist at Google;
  • Hal R. Varian, chief economist at Google;
  • Dan Wagner, CEO and founder of Civis Analytics and former chief analytics officer of the 2012 Obama campaign; and
  • Duncan Watts, principal researcher at Microsoft Research.

CODE will also feature a fireside panel on “Experimentation and Ethical Practice.” Aral notes that the recent “emotional contagion” study at Facebook has generated much discussion about these types of experiments and participants’ awareness of and willingness to participate in them. A special fireside panel during the conference will address the Facebook study, the applicability of human subject regulations to industrial research, and the degree to which informed consent should be required during a digital experiment. Panelists will discuss what it means to be “informed,” how “minimal risk” is evaluated, and how “research” is defined.

Panelists in the fireside chat have all publicly shared a diversity of opinions on the study. They include:

  • Esther Dyson, chair of EDventure Holdings;
  • Leslie Meltzer Henry, professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics;
  • Michelle Meyer, professor at the Union Graduate College–Icahn School of Medicine;
  • Duncan Watts, principle research scientist at Microsoft; and
  • Jonathan Zittrain, professor at Harvard Law School and cofounder and faculty director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

As CODE’s purpose is to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration and understanding, each speaker is limited to 15 minutes, with 45 minutes for Q&A and discussion.

“We want to have a conversation rather than a series of monologues,” says Aral, who is moderating the fireside panel. “Each speaker is invited to do a deep dive into a particular topic and then engage the audience and other panelists in an open discussion. By bringing experts together from different fields, we hope to create some significant advances for this field.”

For more information on CODE or to register, please visit: http://codecon.net/

For more information on Prof. Aral, please visit: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/faculty/detail.php?in_spseqno=19289

Contacts

MIT Sloan
Paul Denning
Director of Media Relations
617-253-0576 office
denning@mit.edu
or
Patricia Favreau
Assistant Director of Media Relations
617-253-3492
pfavreau@mit.edu

Release Summary

MIT Sloan hosts the Conference on Digital Experimentation (CODE), bringing together leading researchers to discuss cutting-edge issues and lay the foundation for a multidisciplinary research community

Contacts

MIT Sloan
Paul Denning
Director of Media Relations
617-253-0576 office
denning@mit.edu
or
Patricia Favreau
Assistant Director of Media Relations
617-253-3492
pfavreau@mit.edu