Summer Institute in Computational Social Science Partner Site

June 17, 2019 - June 28, 2019 | Chicago

Sponsored by The Russell Sage Foundation & The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

From Monday, June 17 to Friday, June 28, 2019, the Summer Institute in Computational Social Science is sponsoring a partner site in Chicago. The purpose of SICSS-Chicago is to bring together Chicagoland graduate students and early career researchers in both social science (broadly conceived) and data science (broadly conceived) to learn and collaborate. Content will include live-streamed lectures from the main site at Princeton University as well as local guest speakers who will present on cutting-edge computational social science research. Topics covered include text analysis, digital data collection, experimental design, non-probability sampling, agent based modeling, and ethics.

Participants will get hands-on experience using computational methods to test social theories by conducting group projects during the second week. One or more collaborative projects that demonstrate extraordinary promise and interdisciplinarity will receive pilot funding for further development, and all participants will be given support in accessing and utilizing the many data sources freely available for research and analysis.

SICSS-Chicago will be held at Northwestern University’s campus in downtown Chicago. There is no cost to participate, and we will provide breakfast and lunch for all on-site days (see schedule for details). Applicants are invited to apply from everywhere, but we cannot provide travel and lodging in Chicago.

We invite applications from graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and untenured faculty within 7 years of their Ph.D. SICSS-Chicago is committed to diversity and inclusion in computational social science, and we welcome applicants from groups currently underrepresented in computational social science. About twenty participants will be invited.

Participants with less experience with social science research will be expected to complete additional readings in advance of the Institute, and participants with less experience coding will be expected to complete a set of online learning modules on the R or Python programming language. Students doing this preparatory work will be supported by a teaching assistant who will hold online office hours before the Institute.

Application materials should be received by March 30th, 2019.

We will notify applicants via e-mail in mid-April, and will ask participants to confirm their participation very soon thereafter. Inquiries can be sent to

SICSS-Chicago is generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation, and several generous local sponsors:


Kat Albrecht

Kat Albrecht is pursuing a PhD in Sociology at Northwestern University and a JD at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. Her research focuses on investigating how the structure of data shapes research conclusions and broader sociological theory. Using machine learning methods, quantitative causal inference, and mapping techniques she primarily builds and analyzes large criminal justice datasets. She is especially concerned with the economics of fear, the working definition of homicide, and the general state of crime data. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota where she first began exploring the junction of computational methods and the social sciences.

Image of Natalie Gallagher

Natalie Gallagher

Natalie Gallagher is doctoral student in psychology at Northwestern University. She is fascinated by the human ability to think about social phenomena that emerge from human interaction - social networks and social categories. Exploring these, her work lies at the intersection of social and cognitive research. She draws on psychological, sociological, and computational methods to pursue her questions, and is interested in how research can inform social change. Natalie received her BA in psychology and theater from Georgetown University, and has an MA in psychology from Northwestern.

Image of Tina Law

Tina Law

Tina Law is a PhD student in sociology at Northwestern. Her research explores why we continue to live in unequal neighborhoods even as our cities are constantly changing. In particular, she uses computational methods and large-scale, digitized data from administrative systems and archival sources to understand how historical events shape contemporary neighborhood racial inequality. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She holds an MA in sociology from Yale.

Local Speakers

Live Stream

Matt Salganik, Chris Bail, more coming soon.

Andrew Papachristos

Andrew Papachristos is Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University and he is the Director of the Northwestern Neighborhood and Network (N3) Initiative. He is also a Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern. His research aims to understand how the connected nature of cities—how their citizens, neighborhoods, and institutions are tied to one another—affect what we think, feel, and do. His main area of research applies network science to the study of gun violence, police misconduct, illegal gun markets, street gangs, and urban neighborhoods.

Rochelle Terman

Rochelle is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where she’ll begin as Assistant Professor in Fall 2020. Her research examines international norms, gender and advocacy, with a focus on the Muslim world. She is currently working on a book project that examines resistance and defiance towards international norms. The manuscript is based on her dissertation, which won the 2017 Merze Tate (formerly Helen Dwight Reid) Award for the best dissertation in international relations, law, and politics from the American Political Science Association. She teaches computational social science at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including Machine Learning for Political Science at Stanford and Introduction to Computational Tools and Techniques at Berkeley. She is a certified instructor with Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science with a designated emphasis in Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Before coming to Chicago, she was a post-doc at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

Sharon Meraz

Sharon Meraz’s work resides in the interplay of political communication, networked journalism, social networks, and mass media theory. As a scholar centrally interested in political activism and political engagement online, she explores how mass media effect theories take shape and evolve due to the growth of networked, social media technologies that empower political publics. In bringing a social network analytic perspective to the evolving media ecology, she has explored such new theoretical premises as networked gatekeeping, networked framing, network agenda setting, memetics, and virality. Meraz is also interested in automated content analysis, natural language processing, and social network visualization of big data. Her work has explored political activity and activism networks in such social applications as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and online political forums during electoral cycles, disaster times, and social movements. Meraz is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Communication. She also serves on several diversity committees and initiatives at the university, including the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) and Fellowship Committees for Minority Students.

More Speakers To Be Announced

Teaching Assistants

Image of Daniel Trielli

Daniel Trielli

Daniel Trielli​ is a PhD student at the Media, Technology and Society program at Northwestern. He is researching computational journalism and how news reaches the public in our increasingly algorithmically-defined world.


To Be Announced


As we discussed in our call for applications, we have arranged two types of training prior to the event this summer. Some students have more sophisticated coding skills but little exposure to social science; other students have significant exposure to social science but lack strong coding skills.


The majority of the coding work presented at the 2019 SICSS will employ R. However, you are welcome to employ a language of your choice- such as Python, Julia, or other languages that are commonly used by computational social scientists. If you would like to work in R, we recommend that you complete the following courses within DataCamp, a website that teaches people how to code. Obviously, you only need to complete the classes with material that you would like to learn.

Additional readings will be provided on sub-Saharan Africa perspectives.

If you cannot afford datacamp, check out Chris Bail’s Intro to R slides at, or Charles Lanfear’s course at [] or Grolemund and Wickham’s online book [].

Reading List

Our institute will bring together people from many fields, and therefore we think that asking you to do some reading before you arrive will help us use our time together more effectively. First, we ask you to read Matt’s book, Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age, which is a broad introduction to computational social science. Parts of this book will be review for most of you, but if we all read this book ahead of time, then we can use our time together for more advanced topics.

Also, for students with little or no exposure to sociology, economics, or political science, we have assembled a collection of exemplary papers in the core areas addressed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Neither your work nor the work we develop together at the institute need map neatly onto these categories, but if those with less exposure to social science read these, we will increase the chances of interdisciplinary cross-pollination, which we view as critical to the future of computational social science.

Future of Work

Behavioral Economics

Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration

Social Inequality

Schedule and materials

- This is a preliminary schedule. Local speakers will be added in the coming weeks

Monday June 17, 2019 - Introduction and Ethics

  • 8:00 - 8:15 Logistics (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 8:15 - 8:30 Introductions (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 8:30 - 9:00 Introduction to computational social science

  • 9:00 - 9:30 Why SICSS?

  • 9:30 - 9:45 Coffee Break

  • 9:45 - 10:30 Ethics: Principles-based approach

  • 10:30 - 11:15 Four areas of difficulty: informed consent, informational risk, privacy, and making decisions in the face of uncertainty

  • 11:15 - 11:30 Introduction to the group exercise

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 12:30 - 2:45 Group exercise (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 2:45 - 3:00 Break

  • 3:00 - 4:30 Guest speaker: Alondra Nelson

Tuesday June 18, 2019 - Collecting Digital Trace Data

  • 8:00 - 8:15 Logistics (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 8:15 - 8:30 What is digital trace data?

  • 8:30 - 8:45 Strengths and weakness of digital trace data

  • 8:45 - 9:15 Screen-Scraping

  • 9:15 - 9:30 Coffee Break

  • 9:30 - 10:00 Application Programming Interfaces

  • 10:00 - 11:30 Building Apps and Bots for Social Science Research

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch and Guest Speaker: Chris Wiggins

  • 12:30 - 2:45 Group Exercise (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 2:45 - 3:00 Break

Wednesday June 19, 2019 - Automated Text Analysis

  • 8:00 - 8:15 Logistics (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 8:15 - 8:30 History of quantitative text analysis

  • 8:30 - 8:45 Basic Text Analysis/GREP

  • 8:45 - 9:00 Dictionary-Based Text Analysis

  • 9:00 - 9:15 Coffee Break

  • 9:15 - 10:15 Topic models/Structural Topic Models

  • 10:15 - 10:20 Break

  • 10:20 - 11:30 Text Networks

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch and Guest Speaker: Jennifer Pan

  • 12:30 - 3:00 Group Exercise (Not open to public/No livestream)

Thursday June 20, 2019 - Surveys in the Digital Age

  • 8:00 - 8:15 Logistics (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 8:15 - 8:45 Survey research in the digital age

  • 8:45 - 9:15 Probability and non-probability sampling

  • 9:15 - 9:30 Coffee break

  • 9:30 - 10:00 Computer-administered interviews and wiki surveys

  • 10:00 - 10:30 Combining surveys and big data

  • 10:30 - 11:00 Group exercise introduction

  • 11:00 - 11:30 Begin group exercise

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch

  • 12:30 - 2:15 Continue group exercise (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 2:15 - 2:45 Discuss activity and open-source data

  • 2:45 - 3:00 Break

  • 3:00 - 4:30 Guest speaker: Justin Grimmer

Friday June 21, 2019 - Mass Collaboration

  • 8:00 - 8:15 Logistics (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 8:15 - 8:30 Mass collaboration

  • 8:30 - 8:45 Human computation

  • 8:45 - 9:00 Open call

  • 9:00 - 9:15 Distributed data collection

  • 9:15 - 9:30 Coffee break

  • 9:30 - 10:30 Introduction to the Fragile Families Challenge

  • 10:30 - 11:30 Working on the Fragile Families Challenge (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch

  • 12:30 - 2:30 Fragile Families Challenge (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 2:30 - 2:45 Discussion of the Fragile Families Challenge (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 2:45 - 3:00 Break

Saturday June 22, 2019 - Experiments

  • 8:00 - 8:15 Logistics (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 8:15 - 8:45 What, why, and which experiments?

  • 8:45 - 9:15 Moving beyond simple experiments

  • 9:15 - 9:30 Coffee break

  • 9:30 - 10:15 Four strategies for experiments

  • 10:15 - 10:45 Zero variable cost data and musiclab

  • 10:45 - 11:15 3 Rs

  • 11:15 - 11:30 Logistics (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch (Not open to public/No livestream)

Sunday June 23, 2019 - Day off

Monday June 24, 2019 - Work on group projects

  • 8:00 - 8:15 Logistics (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 8:15 - 9:30 Speed-dating and group formation (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch and panel of book publishing: Meagan Levinson (Senior Editor, Princeton University Press), Eric Schwartz (Editoral Director, Columbia Univesity Press), and Chris Bail (Editor of the Oxford University Press Series in Computational Social Science)

Tuesday June 25, 2019 - Work on group projects

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch and flash talks ()Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 3:00 - 4:30 Guest speaker: Beth Noveck

Wednesday June 26, 2019 - Work on group projects

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch and flash talks (Not open to public/No livestream)

  • 3:00 - 4:30 Guest speaker: Annie Liang

Thursday June 27, 2019 - Work on group projects

  • 11:30 -12:30 Lunch and flash talks (Not open to public/No livestream)

Friday June 28, 2019 - Present group projects

  • 12:30 - 4:15 Present group projects (Not open to public/No livestream)