COVID up first as social data science gets a new center with an assist from Facebook

The emerging academic discipline of social data science, which leverages Big Data to integrate social science with computer science, has a new base of operations in the Mid-Atlantic region.  

Called SoDa for short, the University of Maryland’s Social Science Data Center partners its colleges of information studies (iSchool) and behavioral and social sciences (BSOS).

Meanwhile the center will tap Facebook to help with research and education programs over the next three years.

In fact, SoDa is already working with the social media giant and other universities, rallying participating entities around a survey project to address the COVID crisis, according to an announcement from the school.

For that work, Facebook is helping gather global data on people who believe they may have the virus based on symptoms. The aim is to predict infection hotspots in the U.S. and around the world.

Going forward, SoDa leadership hopes to spearhead the introduction of a Social Data Science undergraduate major at U of Maryland, according to the announcement.

SoDa’s executive director, Jody Williams, says demand has been growing for social data scientists who have the knowledge and skills needed to analyze massive datasets and connect Big Data to human behavior.

“The value is in the treatment of that data,” Williams adds. “The mission of SoDa focuses on the mindful use of social scientific methodology and analytics in research, education and application of complex digital data, key components to extracting valuable insights from modern everyday life.”

More details are posted at the center’s dedicated website.