In 2020, the European Commission has awarded a Twinning Action grant to Koç University, Turkey for the project “Building the Future: Excelling in Computational and Quantitative Social Sciences in Turkey” (Acronym: Social ComQuant), submitted by Associate Professor Erdem Yörük from the Sociology Department.
The project has a budget of 900.000 Euros for three years. The idea behind Twinning Actions is that an institution from a widening country is twinned with two leading institutions from Europe for the purpose of developing human capacity in proposed domains. In the case of the Social ComQuant Project, Koç University Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humanities and the College of Social Sciences and Humanities will be twinned with GESIS in Germany and ISI in Italy in the domains of computational social sciences and quantitative social sciences.
Social ComQuant Project will be an excellent opportunity for faculty members, post-doctoral researchers, Ph.D. students, master students, and undergraduate students from Koç University and other academic institutions in Turkey to excel in the methods of computational social sciences and quantitative social sciences. For three years, there will be a large number of summer schools, workshops, courses, training, and exchange programs at Koç, GESIS, and ISI.
Koç University Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humanities was established in 2003 by integrating academic fields in the humanities and social sciences. GSSSH currently has alumni population exceeding 550 and current student population 400 graduates and 28 thesis and non-thesis programs embracing a wide range of disciplines including Law, Economics, International Relations and Political Science, Design and Technology, History, Archeology, History of Arts, Sociology, Philosophy and Psychology.
GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences provides essential and internationally relevant research-based services for the social sciences, with more than 300 employees at two locations - Mannheim and Cologne. As the largest European infrastructure institute for the social sciences GESIS offers advice, expertise and services at all stages of scientists' research projects. With this support socially relevant questions can be answered based on the latest scientific methods, and with high quality research data.
The ISI Foundation is a private Foundation conducting research rooted in the area of Complex Systems Science, a field that the institute has contributed to shape for more than three decades. Within the overarching domain of Complexity Science, the ISI Foundation leverages the competing contributions of Data and Theory to avoid the silos of science too prevalent elsewhere. The combination of data, theory and impact is the founding essence of all the ISI research domains, which feed each other through borderless collaborations among multidisciplinary scientists, providing a solid, growing and high-potential knowledge capital that can be leveraged in all possible endeavors.
The Social ComQuant Project is in cooperation with a European Research Council (ERC) funded research project, Emerging Welfare, hosted by Koç University, where Dr. Erdem Yörük acts as the principal investigator. The Emerging Welfare project (emw.ku.edu.tr) deploys quantitative and computational social science methods to explore the politics of welfare in the developing world.
Computational social sciences stand out as fields based on using artificial intelligence and big-data methods, and quantitative social sciences stand out as fields based on applying statistical methods. Today, digitalization is an unstoppable megatrend. It characterizes the twenty-first century in many aspects of social, political, and cultural life. The deep structural changes that accompany digitalization have become both the subject matter and an instrument of the social sciences. Social scientists now use big data, machine learning, network analysis in computational methods, and (quasi) experimental methods in quantitative methods to analyze the social world. These novel methods can be applied e.g. to distill measures from new data sources (texts and images), to characterize population heterogeneity, to improve causal inference, and to offer predictions in aiding policy decisions and theory development.,,,,,
The social sciences research field of “Digital Societies” is becoming increasingly important for the public to deal with the challenges that modern societies are facing. This theme addresses the growing influence of digital technologies on trajectories of social and economic change and the implications for policymakers, civil society, and the private sector. Digital innovations are changing our society, economy, and industries with a speed like never before. Big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile technologies offer unimaginable opportunities and improvements of our lives to many aspects of life including health, energy, agriculture, transportation, and public administration.
Despite this development in the state-of-the art, there are significant disparities in terms of research and innovation performance between Turkey and the better performing European Member states as well as North American countries in computational and quantitative social sciences (CSS and QSS) together with the field of Digital Societies. The visibility of CSS has significantly grown since 2008 in Europe and the United States while the rise in Turkey is far behind the global trend.
In addition, there is currently no graduate program on CSS at Turkish universities. Moreover, the discrepancy between Turkey and other European countries to attract funding for research in social sciences is still low. A similar problem persists in the field of QSS. This constitutes a barrier for Turkey to improve its research and development potential. Therefore, social science researchers in Turkey are in high need of state-of-the-art computational and quantitative methods that would provide them with more powerful tools than traditional scientific methods.
Through the Social ComQuant project, the use of these methods is intended to be further encouraged in many other social science disciplines such as history, sociology, psychology and economics. Moreover, the methods mentioned above appear as a rising trend and necessity in the analysis of various global problems that have come up. One of the most recent examples in this context is the predominant use of big-data methods and statistical methods in the analysis and management process of the COVID-19 crisis, which is the main agenda of 2020. In this context, it can be predicted that the field of computational social sciences will play a crucial role in the analysis, management and follow-up processes of many similar international crises in the future. One of the main results to be achieved with the Soc ComQuant project is the training of human capital that can take part in the analysis and solution processes of social problems around the globe.
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The four objectives of the Social ComQuant project are:
- Early Career Development
- Improve Research Excellence
- Enhancing Knowledge Infrastructure
- Strengthen Research Collaborations
The Social ComQuant project aims at radically expanding the scientific excellence and innovation capacity (methodological and theoretical) in computational and quantitative social sciences fields at Koç University and other academic institutions in Turkey via Twinning Action together with GESIS and ISI in the aforementioned fields. CSS and QSS are the two leading methodological domains in state-of-the-art social sciences, while in Turkey, they are relatively underdeveloped fields.
Participation of GESIS and ISI with KU in the Twinning program offers a huge potential for scientific networking, partnering opportunities, knowledge transfer, and exchange of best practice in computational and quantitative social sciences. Research excellence is a key factor for research and innovation performance and for successful participation in European Framework Programmes for funding. Thus, this collaboration will help Turkey to increase its participation in Horizon 2020 and other European research funding projects in social sciences.
Social ComQuant involves training activities such as staff exchanges, summer and winter schools, workshops and seminars. The aim is to increase the academic level of faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students and as a result, radically enhance computational and quantitative social sciences in Turkey. A secondary objective, KU has the ambition to serve as a regional hub for other academic institutions in Turkey and the wider Middle East region for sociology research on digitalization.