Research & Innovation

Stevens Social Media and Resilience Analytics Research Aims to Improve Decision-Making in Emergencies

Systems thinking, international collaboration are keys to addressing risk in modern systems

For the last 70 years, global society has largely been free of extreme events, like a world war or widespread plagues. While no one knows for sure how and when the next global event will occur, one thing is certain: the world is full of surprises and uncertainty. 

Conflicts in different parts of the world, climate changes at the poles, and even the topic of “fake news” are transforming the social mood and the systemic nature of the global environment today – all this is helping to create an atmosphere ripe for an extreme event in the future. 

How can the world build resilience against these threats?

Social media data analytics and resilience analytics offer two examples. 

Systems researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have long collaborated with international groups of scientists, researchers and educators from diverse backgrounds to discuss global systemic risks, and how data analytics can improve our understanding of where threats lie and how to best plan for them.

Sharing systems knowledge, home and abroad, to understand risk and complexity in global systems

Recently, Stevens engineering management professor Jose Emmanuel Ramirez-Marquez was invited to speak at the Global-X Network Annual Meeting at the HafenCity University in Hamburg, Germany. Mathematicians, environmental systems scientists, economists, business operations researchers, psychologists, professors, and sociologists from Austria, Finland, Germany, UK, Japan, Korea, France, Singapore, and the U.S. gathered at the conference to discuss the impact of systems in the cases of extreme events, or as the group calls it, X-Events. 

During his talk, Dr. Ramirez-Marquez pointed to resilience, community resilience, behavioral analytics, social media analytics, and human-computer algorithms data as frontline defenses to help systems thinkers understand risk in modern systems and prepare for extreme events. He shared insights on the research taking place at Stevens, including at the Center for Complex Systems and Enterprises (CCSE) of the School of Systems and Enterprises (SSE). Another member of the Stevens community, Dr. John Casti, a research fellow at CCSE, gave the audience insights into X-events, or extreme events, and the importance of the landscape in which one takes place.

And during a recent international workshop at the Paul Scherrer Institute and ETH Zurich in Switzerland, Dr. Ramirez-Marquez shared perspectives on Stevens research in the areas of social media data analytics and resiliency analytics with researchers, scientists and industry and government leaders. He explained that technical leaders in business and government enterprises with systems thinking skills are empowered to make faster decisions during crisis periods within their respective organizations.

“No matter what kind of data you have, you can do something with it,” he exclaims, placing emphasis on systems thinking. “Social media data and resilience analytics are useful methods to anticipate reaction to future events, and data visualization uncovers patterns, shortening time of analysis and decision-making.”

Systems thinking is central to the curriculum at SSE

Closer to home in Hoboken, N.J., Stevens Innovation and Entrepreneurship doctoral fellow, Sergio Luna, recently presented his research at the 2017 Annual Innovation Expo on the topic of misinformation in social media as it relates to emergency management.

In providing an overview of the consequences of misinformation in the case of an emergency or extreme event, Luna explains, “Dissemination of misinformation in social media, particularly during emergency situations, is dangerous because poor decisions can be made, actions can result in counterproductive consequences, and responders can misallocate resources.”

Luna points out that an interactive visualization approach that supports emergency managers to anticipate scenarios and simulate user’s response to social media misinformation and their effect on the infrastructure are keys to addressing misinformation. What’s more, decision-makers need to be able to visualize potential policies and their effect on emergency response processes and on the users’ actions. 

In an age where facts are regularly put to the test, professionals across domains are increasingly reliant on accurate data to make smarter, faster decisions. Successful preparation for threats and opportunities in global systems requires that engineers have to ability to visualize and analyze all available data in real time using a systematic approach and apply scientific methods to arrive at proper conclusions and solutions ahead of extreme events and emergency situations.

As for Luna, the opportunity to acquire research-based knowledge in social media and resilience analytics was one of the reasons he came to Stevens. “The Stevens School of Systems and Enterprises is an attractive option for students looking to pursue careers in engineering management, systems engineering or software engineering, and like me, seeking to make an impact on society,” he says.