Category Archives: Accolade

5 years of NERDS!

NERDS was founded 5 years ago by three young assistant professors and one associate professor, to be a reference point at ITU for the research on network and data science applications to social systems. At 5 years old, we have learned to write our name (we have a logo), to follow rules, and to use a fork and knife for eating. And hoo boy, did we use that fork last friday when celebrating our anniversary with an original NERDS cake!

We also got new group photos taken (by Sebastian Mateos Nicolajsen – thx!), see below, because we have grown to 20+ members over the years! For all bean counting aficionados, we also won over 5M EUR of research funding and published 84 papers so far.

Further highlights, shown in the timeline above. We:

Looking back to our goals 5 years ago, we have all reason to be proud to have 1) built up a flourishing network of Denmark-based network/data science research groups, connecting ITU, KU, DTU, and others, 2) successfully impressed several funding agencies and public stakeholders to engage with us solving societal problems with our research. We will continue along this road, developing further our group in a safe and fun environment.

In our near future, we look forward to welcoming several new group members in the fall, including one assistant professor and several PhDs/Postdocs.

Live long and prosper 🖖
Luca, Luigi, Roberta, Claudia, Anastassia, Jacob, Vedran, Sandro, Anders, Michele, Anders 2, Ane, Toine, Mesut, Luca 2, Michael, Arianna, Clement, Elisabetta, Alessia, Jacopo, Daniele, Nicoló

GrowBike.Net covered in Austrian media

Our project GrowBike.Net was just covered in Austrian media, both in an online news report and on Austrian TV station ORF 2, in the news report Wien heute. If you understand German, watch our 15 seconds of fame here:

The written report Radwege sollen möglichst direkt verlaufen:

GrowBike.Net is an interactive platform resulting from an ITU master project, visualizing the results of our 2022 paper Growing urban bicycle networks: The idea is to simulate the creation of a cohesive bicycle network inspired by the Dutch CROW design manual for bicycle traffic. Studying these synthetic networks informs us about the geometric limitations of urban bicycle network growth and can lead to better designed bicycle infrastructure in cities. In the case of the Austrian news report, the key metric of directness was highlighted: Bicycle networks should allow for direct paths without substantial detours.

Michael Szell wins EU Horizon grant

As one of 32 partners, Michael Szell / ITU is part of the EU (Horizon) project

JUST STREETS – Mobility justice for all: framing safer, healthier and happier streets

that has just started! The consortium includes 12 European cities representing more than 4.5 million citizens. The project aims to transform cities’ car-centered mobility narratives that take for granted that streets are for motorized traffic only, to promote walking, cycling and other active modes of mobility.

To reach this goal, ITU’s part of the project will develop algorithmic methods to study low traffic neighborhoods and bicycle/pedestrian networks, and analyze mobility data with focus on safety, for better planning of human-centric, sustainable mobility.

This grant will provide us funding for a new PhD student, Clément Sebastiao, who has recently joined our group.

Roberta wins ERC Consolidator grant!

Wow – Roberta Sinatra just won an ERC Consolidator grant! We congratulate her with all our hearts to this once-in-a-lifetime achievement!

An ERC Consolidator grant comes with 2 million EUR for 5 years and enables “a scientist who wants to consolidate their independence by establishing a research team and continuing to develop a success career in Europe”.

Roberta’s excellence, her interdisciplinarity, and her proposed topic just hit the right nerve:

scAIence: Quantifying AI-infused Science

The goal of scAIence is to quantify whether, how, and with which implications generative AI is changing how scientists write, communicate, and diffuse their science, and to explore rigorously the opportunities, dangers, and implications of scientists augmenting their scientific writing with AI. The focus of scAIence is quantitative and based on large-scale data and controlled experiments, since we lack a systematic analysis of AI-generated science: All our evidence regarding AI-generated writing is anecdotal or based on small case studies.

Within the scAIence project, Roberta and her team will deploy a novel computational social science approach, based on a wide array of quantitative disciplines, leveraging large-scale databases of human-generated information and controlled experiments. scAIence will break new ground by (i) introducing the quantitative methods required to understand AI-infused science, (ii) redefining metrics and models to account for AI-generated content in science, and (iii) delivering quantitative scientific insights into how AI is changing the diffusion of science. Taken together, scAIence will lay the scientific foundation for the quantitative study of AI-infused science.

The scAIence project is planned to take place at Roberta’s main affiliation SODAS at Copenhagen University – follow Roberta for upcoming hiring calls for PhD students and Postdocs. 

Our Mastodon server is one year old today

Exactly one year ago Michael has set up the Mastodon server, to allow the data/network science community, broadly defined, to build up a new online home after Twitter’s demise. In this time has become a vibrant online community with almost 300 people who have joined from all over the world, from various disciplines or from industry. As the first account on the server, also NERDS have set up shop there: After just a year we have successfully amassed almost 500 followers:

However, the point of Mastodon is not quantity, but quality. As Twitter has become X, a platform now known for hate speech and misinformation, we are prioritizing Mastodon and are posting all our news there first. We still keep our X account, as a large part of our scientific community has not yet moved away from X, but we encourage everyone to just try out Mastodon. While Mastodon is not perfect, it is better than other platforms we know, not least because of its extraordinary engagement and civility which makes it great for scientists. If you are interested, sign up here, it’s super easy:

To learn more about, see:

NERDS win 2 Villum Synergy grants

NERDS members Michele Coscia and Roberta Sinatra each won a Villum Synergy research grant, funded by the Villum Foundation! Each of the grants will provide us funding for one Postdoc.

Current view from the NERDS lair

Michele Coscia’s project Past social network reconstruction from material culture data is in collaboration with the Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet), Aarhus University. This data-driven project establishes interdisciplinary collaboration between archaeologists and network scientists to create the first integrated computational workflow for reconstructing past social networks from material culture data. It will enhance archaeological method and theory for network data representation of material culture data and for testing assumptions about how this data reflects past social networks. It will also enrich network science: archaeology provides network data with critical incompleteness issues but that is also rich in metadata. The project will enable studies on the diversity of social networks of our species, and how processes evolve over long time periods beyond the scope of current social network studies.

Roberta Sinatra’s project Quantifying the Prevalence and Diffusion of Generative AI in Science is in collaboration with the Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen. This project fills these critical knowledge gaps by bridging expertise in computer science and the sociology of science, to study the prevalence of large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT in science. It will analyze trends in the usage and prevalence of LLMs across scientific disciplines and will predict the diffusion and adoption of generative AI in scientific networks. The project will help prepare the scientific enterprise for the challenges and opportunities presented by generative AI.

Another smashing DataBeers Copenhagen, with 170 participants

Four years after we brought DataBeers to Denmark, another successful event was held this week in Copenhagen!

DataBeers is a global not-for-profit initiative active in dozens of cities worldwide, that brings data scientists and data enthusiasts from industry, government, academia and the arts to knowledge share. The DataBeers teams organise events and invite speakers to tell their experience with data: analysis, visualisations, applied data, data journalism etc., always in an informal and agile manner.

This week’s event was again co-organized by NERDS (especially Sandro and Arianna), and also featured Michael as one of the speakers with a magic-themed talk on “Stories from 1001 paths (over Dybbølsbro)” – slides available here [pdf]:

The event had a fantastic vibe, great speakers, and a psyched audience including many ITU students. Apart from the four speakers from academia and industry, it also featured a scientific presentation karaoke. Here some visual impressions from the event, which this time took place in Absalon, a locally famous church-turned-into-community-center:

DataBeersCPH has now grown to accommodate 170 participants, with the event’s free tickets having become sold out one week before the event, mainly through word-of-mouth. The event’s free beers and its venue were charitably sponsored by the DDSA, DTU, ITU, and KU.

Here’s two cheers for many more successful DataBeers in Copenhagen to spread our love for data and science (and beers)! 🍻 🍻

OECD recommendations for mobility policies based on NERDS research

The OECD/ITF (International Transport Forum) released the document “Towards the Light: Effective Light Mobility Policies in Cities” with policy recommendations towards more sustainable cities through light mobility such as bicycles, scooters, or micro vehicles.


In this report, a whole section called “Go faster! Develop high-quality wheeled light mobility infrastructure that fits the context” is based almost entirely on several of our NERDS papers on bicycle/micromobility network analysis. The section discusses how “a strong effort should be made to ensure that the newly created network is connected to the greatest extent possible and allows access to important and popular points of interest”, and how data-driven approaches that we developed are “important tools” that can complement traditional manual approaches:

Further, the report cites a previous study of ours on the perceived distribution of road space,

[Cars] have become so entrenched in the urban landscape that the general public often systematically overestimates the amount of mobility space allocated to non-motorised modes – while underestimating the space allocated to the car (Szell, 2018). Additionally, much of the violence they impose on all other road users is normalised and remains unaddressed in public and policy discourses.

and concludes:

Policy makers and planners need to remove their car blinders and cure their car blindness so that they can finally see the light.

We wholeheartedly agree and are happy that our research is useful for sustainable policy-making in an international context. (The International Transport Forum is an inter-governmental organisation within the OECD system, and is the only global body with a mandate for all modes of transport. It acts as a think tank for transport policy issues and organises the annual global summit of transport ministers.)