My name is Paola Tubaro and I am senior research scientist (Chargé de Recherche 1e classe) at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS, in French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique). Trained as an economist and hired as a sociologist, I am at a major computer science lab, the Laboratoire de Recherche en Informatique on the Saclay campus just south of Paris. My mission is to facilitate inter-disciplinary dialogue for the progress of computational social science – an emerging field that leverages today’s growing capacity to collect and analyze data at large scale and to model complex systems, so as to reveal yet-unknown patterns of individual and group behaviors.
I teach the sociology of social networks at ENS, co-organize the Paris Seminar on the Analysis of Social Processes and Structures (SPS), and serve as Associate Editorial Board member of the journal Revue Française de Sociologie.
Until December 2015, I was at the Faculty of Business of the University of Greenwich, London. I was a Reader (that is, in the British academic career ladder, something similar to what Americans call a tenured Associate Professor) in economic sociology. I directed the doctoral programme (PhD, MPhil and Master’s by Research), and I coordinated research within the department of international business and economics. Today, I keep some involvement with Greenwich as visiting professor, supervising three PhD students there.
In Britain, I am also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy; an external examiner at University College London, Institute of Education; the co-convenor of the Social Networks Analysis Group of British Sociological Association; a member of the Digital Social Science Forum, and of the Associate Editorial Board of Sociology.
In Italy, I am visiting professor at the department of economics of the University of Insubria, where I teach a Research Methods course to first-year PhD students.
My interest in data synthesizes a variety of influences and experiences, giving them unity and consistency. It develops along three main dimensions:
- Substantively, I investigate the opportunities and challenges that arise in today’s renewed data landscape (the “data deluge”) for researchers, the public sector, companies, and society as a whole.
- Methodologically, I contribute to developing methods of data collection, visualization and analysis that improve social scientists’ capacity to understand and interpret reality.
- Policy-wise, I participate in initiatives to build infrastructures to facilitate access to, and sharing of, socioeconomic data for scientific purposes.
An example of my substantive research on data is a project, funded by Fondation Cigref and undertaken with A.A. Casilli, investigating the so-called “end-of-privacy” in social media. Using an agent-based computer simulation model, we studied the extent to which growing release of personal data through online social networking sites is changing perceptions of privacy, the ensuing business opportunities and challenges, societal issues, and policy guidelines. A book with the main results of the project came out in 2014 with Springer.
My methodological work is best exemplified by the development of a graphical interface to collect personal network data in an online survey, allowing respondents to draw their own sociogram; and of data visualization tools to analyze and compare the structures of personal networks collected through such a survey. This work has been done as part of the research project ANAMIA, funded by ANR and undertaken in collaboration with five research teams in France; one methodological article has been published in Field Methods, another in Sociological Research Online.
For policy purposes, I participated in the two European (FP7) projects CESSDA PPP and Data without Boundaries (DwB), to boost use of official statistical data (i.e. data produced by governments and other public bodies) for scientific purposes, aiming to address researchers’ increasing need for large, high-quality databases while still meeting stringent privacy protection conditions.
I am currently researching the “collaborative economy” of digital platforms and how they create value from the social ties in which economic action is embedded. This new project blends my interest for data, social networks and the digital economy with new insight from machine learning and optimization approaches.