Innovative educational methods for research integrity

People involved:
Aida Bafeta
Ariel Lindner

Keywords: ethics, research, misconduct, serious games

Project description

Research misconduct and misbehaviors are perceived as a risk of weakening the institutions and the scientific community. Why would the public fund research and trust its researchers if they are not honest?  In the media sphere, fraud, data fabrication and falsification, and plagiarism receive a particular public attention, but according to a meta-analysis of survey data only 2% of researchers admit to having used these practices at least once. While  a third of scientists admitted to having used questionable research practices, such as modifying the design, methodology, or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source. Today, it is important to rethink the concept of integrity research beyond of misconduct (fraud, data fabrication and falsification,  and plagiarism). One of the proposed solutions is to educate scientists on research integrity. Improved research integrity training is now variously supported and mandatored. However most of studies evaluating research integrity training have mostly been inconclusive, long-term impacts on behavior have not been demonstrated, and focused on the  plagiarism. It is crucial to identify questionable research practices and to propose training for researchers. We believe that developing simple, playful and adequate educational resources on questionable research practices in the form of serious games, could help to solve this problem. In this project we will want to create several tools dedicated to early researchers and students to raise awareness of the integrity of research.

Intervention Platform for Citizen Science

People involved: Avi Segal

KeywordsCitizen Science, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Reinforcement Learning

Project Description

As users in volunteer‐based crowdsourcing platforms are not motivated by monetary incentives, it can be challenging to keep them engaged and productive on tasks. In this project we will build on past research in this area and develop an intervention platform for CRI’s citizen science projects. This platform will focus on exploring and extending engagement in CRI’s citizen science projects by combining machine learning with intervention design. It will use real‐time predictions about forthcoming dis‐ engagement and deep reinforcement learning methods to guide online interventions messages based on signals available from CRI’s platforms. The intervention messages will be developed through interaction with CRI’s citizen science community and according the ethical guidelines. Past research has shown that combining traditional AI planning with incentive design can significantly increase the contributions of users in similar systems.

Beyond networks: the evolution of dynamic regulatory systems

People involved: Johannes Jaeger

Keywords: process thinking, evolutionary systems biology, organicism,
complex adaptive system, dynamical systems theory

Project Description

I am writing a book on evolutionary systems biology from an organismal,
dynamical systems perspective. It is based on the fundamental notion that
evolutionary dynamics arise from the struggle for survival of goal-oriented
organismal agents. In this radical view, organisms and their perceived
environments co-generate each other. The notion of organismal agency is
based on the organizationally closed but thermodynamically open structure
of living systems. Organismal agents are paradigm examples of complex
adaptive systems. I combine empirical, mathematical, and conceptual
approaches to approach this broad and complicated topic. I start from a
processual ontological perspective, examining the fundamental nature of
change and the patterned dynamics that constitute a system. The book then
develops a graphical and intuitive introduction to dynamical systems, based
on the notion that flow (a generalized mapping through time) is
fundamental, while abstract notions such as instantaneous states or
integral paths through time are derived. It presents a number of examples,
where dynamical systems theory in general, and the geometrical analysis of
configuration space in particular, have been successfully applied to
problems in organismic development, ecology, and evolution. It then goes on
to examine the limits of dynamical systems theory, the validity of
steady-state assumptions, the need for non-autonomous systems, and the
difficulties in integrating organizational closure into the formalism. It
discusses radical notions of organism-environment co-evolution, based on
the idea that living beings are not passive sufferers of evolutionary
processes, but actively engage in autonomous exploratory and adaptive
activities. Such an agent-based view leads to a tight interdependence of a
system and its configuration space. I am developing conceptual foundations
for new mathematical formalisms able to deal with this commingling, while
still remaining amenable to (numerical) analysis that enables novel
causal-mechanistic insights into organisms as autonomous agents and their

The book is aimed at an interdisciplinary audience with a wide variety of
intellectual backgrounds. My aim is to make the reader familiar with the
conceptual problems of agent-based evolution without presupposing an
advanced level of technical mathematical skills. The book is based on a
masterclass at the University of Vienna with 14 lectures, each one
providing one of the chapters. The aim of my six-month stay at the CRI is
to work on the book, while turning its content into a massive open online
course (MOOC) with the help of the infrastructure and the multi-media teams
at the CRI.

Connecting travelling scientists and schools

People involved: Liubov Tupikina

Keywords: science and education, society, complex network, online platform, multilayer system

Project Description

Education plays a key role in society as part of the economical, social and cultural spheres of our life. However, there are currently some issues with the educational system. According to UNESCO statistics, 1.9 million teachers are needed in classrooms around the world by 2015 – and this number keeps increasing as world population grows. The project I would like to develop x§at the CRI is based on the “SciEd network” project, which I started with some colleagues in 2017 during a teaching and traveling sabbatical in Nepal.  

The idea of the SciEd project is simple and can be summarized as follows. Scientists often travel to attend international conferences and workshops. There is an untapped opportunity for them to give free outreach-lectures in local schools and high-schools in potentially remote countries and improve the local exposure to Science. The idea is based on the observation that scientists are in general frequently moving around the world, and using the occasion to give lectures for children in local schools on inspiring topics can bridge a gap in the additional school education. In short, since we can’t bring children from around the world to the university hotspots, we adopt a reverse mechanisms to bring these hotspots around the world.

As such, SciEd gives the opportunity to provide schools with an exposure to inspiring, serious, yet, understandable research subjects and even small research projects in addition to their traditional curriculum, and to help children get interested in mathematics, physics, biology and other disciplines through insightful, concrete lectures on what working in those fields mean today. In addition, this project positively affects the teaching and outreach experience of scientists. In six months, the SciEd project has already involved more than 10 international schools from Nepal, India, Russia, France, Germany, Uruguay. Moreover, all registered online scientists actively dedicate their free time to build a sustainable network through open registration on the SciEd website. 

The overall goal of the SciEd project is to enrich the educational system with lectures from scientists, traveling around the world. In the long term I aim at building a sustainable system, meeting science and education, where scientists are giving outreach lectures, hence creating an additional layer in the educational system. In CRI I am going to work on a short term project, namely SciEd-CRI, where I will develop an online platform connecting scientists and schools, while making use of network analysis methods. Such a platform would allow one to collect, update and dynamically analyze the data.

This includes designing and configuring the online platform, including registration and data management for both networks of schools and and scientists. The main challenge of the project will be to capture the fundamental principles of a sustainable functioning of this system, as well as provide online and offline facilities for schools around the world to connect with scientists. As a first step, we will capitalize on existing data by making an extensive mining and analysis of how scientists travel, by collecting data from conference websites, i.e. EasyChair, or scientific networks, such as ResearchGate, search platforms, such as CouchSurfing, and applying methods of transportation networks in order to analyze them. The analysis methods for the project are based on the multilayer network analysis, dynamical multivariable network models. The application of both fundamental methods of network analysis and knowledge about the social networks dynamical laws will provide resources to build and coordinate a sustainable platform for SciEd-CRI and SciEd globally.

Citizen science for evidence-based research in mathematics education in primary school

People involved: Ignacio Atal

Keywords: evidence-based education; citizen science; mathematics in primary school  

Project Description

Teachers, parents, school directors, teacher trainers, researchers in education, and decision makers all make outstanding efforts to improve the education of children. All of them, alongside with children have different ideas and opinions about the objective of education and how it should be delivered. It is urgent to break down the silos between these actors to push together their isolated efforts, and help them co-design innovative solutions fitting co-defined expectations and needs.

In this project, we will conduct open citizen-based research projects in education, with a particular focus on mathematics education in primary school. We will focus on the re-use of existing secondary data in order to inform the educational system about the effect of different settings or interventions using state-of-the-art methods developed in the context of evidence-based medicine research. The research questions will be co-defined, and the data will be co-identified, co-gathered, co-analyzed and co-reported by different stake-holders at different levels of the educational processes (national, school, teacher and student).

We expect to identify and answer specific questions to improve the education of mathematics in primary school based on data, and we hope this project will trigger the openness of educational datasets for citizen-based research.