Directors' Message Spring 2022

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Integrating Social Science and Engineering

How does human decision-making strain the supply chain? What specific behaviors need to be measured to improve human-in-the-loop AI? When do people choose to disclose private information on social media, exposing themselves and their community to cyber threats? These questions all center on understanding the cognitive, behavioral, and social processes that link humans to our data-driven world each day. 

Being able to answer these questions requires the full integration of cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences into interdisciplinary teams addressing these issues from many angles. Rigorous methodologies for obtaining and analyzing human subjects data are core to the various disciplines that address basic science questions about the fundamental nature of human thought and behavior. Bringing these tools and the deep disciplinary knowledge that goes with them to bear on interdisciplinary questions strengthens the scientific approaches and broadens the potential impact of interdisciplinary team science. 

As an IRI, I-DISC embraces the mission of building and supporting interdisciplinary teams, as well as bringing many voices to the table, including those from the social sciences and humanities. Highlighted below are two examples of how I-DISC is approaching this work in the current semester.

As part of its ongoing evolution, the I-DISC Fellows program is expanding this spring to support faculty research that integrates cognitive, behavioral, and social science with data science and engineering. Alex Sackett joins the I-DISC Fellows team this spring. She is a 5th year Psychology PhD student with a strong background in social cognition, development of implicit and explicit measurement tools, and human subjects research more broadly. Alex will be working alongside returning I-DISC Fellow Dan Luo to expand the consulting services that the Fellows program offers to include support for faculty who seek support for various aspects of human subjects research. Possible topics include measurement and protocol development for online participant recruitment and data collection, and ethical considerations for human subjects research. Through this service to our members, I-DISC seeks to build capacity for and experience with interdisciplinary research that fully incorporates expertise in cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences into a wide range of research centered in all five of Lehigh’s colleges.  Faculty interested in more information about the I-DISC Fellows program can find information as well as procedures for requesting fellows’ services on our website here.

On April 6, I-DISC will host our first Data and Computing Equity and Justice (DCEJ) Seminar featuring data journalist Meredith Broussard. Drawing from her experience as both a software developer and a journalist, Broussard focuses the critical lens of journalism and the structure of computer programming on questions of how individuals and society interact with and rely upon computers and technology. In her book Artificial Unintelligence, Broussard presents a series of case studies that explore the inherent limits of technology and the resulting dysfunction that arises when technology is blindly implemented. Her call for better choices in the use of technology will challenge all of us in the I-DISC community to consider our own decisions in research and technology development with respect to the social justice and equality of our actions.

I-DISC Leadership Team
Larry Snyder, ISE, I-DISC Director
Kate Arrington, Psychology, I-DISC Associate Director
Brian D. Davison, CSE, I-DISC Associate Director