Our datasci.social Mastodon server is one year old today

Exactly one year ago Michael has set up the datasci.social 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 datasci.social 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: https://datasci.social/@nerdsitu

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: https://datasci.social/auth/sign_up

To learn more about datasci.social, see: https://community.datasci.social/

Report from our latest Nightingale Network meeting

It has taken us almost 2 years, but we finally managed to co-organize a new Nightingale Network meeting yesterday!

The Nightingale Network brings together faculty, postdocs, and students based in Denmark who share an interest in Computational Social Science, Complex Systems, and Network Science.

The gathering of around 30 researchers took place in the top, 15th floor of the colossal Maersk tower, where we held IC2S2 earlier this year. With many new faces joining all our groups in Denmark, again many new social ties were forged and old ties strengthened, making full use of our nerdy open-source party-games: https://github.com/NERDSITU/nerdyicebreakers (including a new one by main organizer Laura)

Here the press-shots of the winners in the three games Bingo (Arianna), Nerdgame (Ben, last nerd standing – with a very consistent outfit), and the new Six degrees of wikipedia (Mirko, Arianna, Pantelis, Peter, Sandro):






If you are from Denmark (or closeby) and share our research interests, please reach out to us if you want to be part of the next meeting!

We welcome 2 new PhD students: Anders and Daniel

This month, another two PhD students join NERDS – Welcome Anders and Daniel!

Anders Weile Larsen is working with Roberta Sinatra (KU, SODAS) and Vedran Sekara (ITU, NERDS) on a project which aims to uncover the fundamental limits of ML and AI for predicting human behavior. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science and a Master’s in Social Data Science, Anders comes from a highly interdisciplinary background. Anders has previously worked in the Danish Ministry of Taxation where he developed a customer segmentation model and taught Python programming. More recently, as part of the Nation-Scale Social Networks project, Anders has worked on estimating peer effects of library takeouts and modeling patterns of literary consumption. Anders’ PhD is funded by the Danish Pioneer Centre for AI, where he is also affiliated.

Daniel Juhász Vigild is a PhD student at SODAS (our sister group at KU), at the ROCKWOOL Foundation’s Research Unit, and is a visiting PhD student at ITU. He holds a Msc. in Business Analytics from DTU. 
His research examines the digitalization of the public sector, with a focus on quantifying the productivity enhancements and potential social costs of implementing digital initiatives. 
He is currently examining the effect of implementing POL-INTEL, an intelligence-led policing tool implemented in Denmark in 2018.

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.

Welcome Jacob to NERDS!

Meet the newest member of NERDS – Jacob Aarup Dalsgaard! Jacob is a PhD student in social data science at SODAS – our KU sister group, and will be a visiting PhD student at ITU. Jacob will be diving deep into the world of bias in science, focusing especially on algorithms and models, as part of the BiasExplained project funded by the Villum Foundation. We’re super happy to have him on board and can’t wait to see all the contribution he will bring to the group. 💡

Welcome to the NERDS squad, Jacob! 🖖

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]: http://michael.szell.net/downloads/talk_szell2023sfp.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)! 🍻 🍻

New NERDS review paper on Sidewalk Networks

Sidewalk networks: Review and outlook, by D. Rhoads, C. Rames, A. Solé-Ribalta, M.C. González, M. Szell & J. Borge-Holthoefer, published in Computers, Environment and Urban Systems

From a transport perspective, increasing active travel –and walking in particular– is crucial for the future of sustainable cities, as reflected in global decarbonisation policies and agendas. Further, walking is much more than a mere mode of transport: it provides a fundamental social function, fostering vibrant cohesive communities. Arguably, walking and its associated infrastructure –sidewalks– should rank among the highest priorities for planning authorities. However, efficiency- and speed-driven urbanisation has gradually reallocated street space to private cars, leading to automobiles being the prioritised mode of transport today. Empirical research has generally followed suit, and a systemic understanding of walking as a phenomenon is largely missing, i.e., questions like how connected, resilient, accessible, or socially equitable is the pedestrian infrastructure of whole neighbourhoods and cities. Such relative neglect of sidewalk network research is, first and foremost, the consequence of a generalised lack of publicly available data on sidewalk infrastructure worldwide. A second reason might be its apparent lack of interest from a systemic standpoint: pedestrian mobility does not produce coordination challenges on the scale that cars do. In this work, we confront this perception by showing that there is ample research potential in the study of system-wide sidewalk networks, with both structural and dynamical challenges which might be critical to pursue the latest aspirations towards sustainable mobility in cities.

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.)

Assoc Prof wanted!

ITU is looking for an Associate Professor in data science and machine learning, including network science, computational social science: Read more and apply at the official call page
Deadline: Sep 8

This is not a call specific to any research group at ITU, but if the new Assoc. Prof’s topic fits with our group NEtwoRks, Data, and Society (NERDS) at IT University of Copenhagen, they could join us. NERDS focuses on quantitative projects at the boundary of computational social science and network science, including science of science, social dynamics, urban sustainability, data visualization, and fundamental questions in complex systems.

Both salary and working conditions are excellent at ITU. NERDS is a down-to-earth and fun place to be, we have won the Research Environment of 2022 prize. Copenhagen is often named as the best city in the world to live in, and for good reasons. It’s world-renowned for food, beer, art, music, architecture, the Scandinavian “hygge”, and much more. In Denmark, parental leave is generous, and child-care is excellent and cheap.

If you are interested to know more about NERDS or working at ITU please reach out to us.

New NERDS paper: Mobility science

Future directions in human mobility science, by L. Pappalardo, E. Manley, V. Sekara, L. Alessandretti, published in Nature Computational Science


We provide a brief review of human mobility science and present three key areas where we expect to see substantial advancements. We start from the mind and discuss the need to better understand how spatial cognition shapes mobility patterns. We then move to societies and argue the importance of better understanding new forms of transportation. We conclude by discussing how algorithms shape mobility behavior and provide useful tools for modelers. Finally, we discuss how progress on these research directions may help us address some of the challenges our society faces today.