Masdar Institute Hosts Seminar on ‘Finding Answers through Social Networks’

September 21, 2018

Victor Naroditskiy of University of Southampton Explains Role of Sifting Accurate Information during Referral-based Crowd-sourcing’

Abu Dhabi-UAE: 20 December, 2011 – Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, today announced it organized a seminar to highlight the challenges in sifting accurate information from social networking platforms, especially during ‘referral-based crowd-sourcing’.

The seminar led by Victor Naroditskiy was titled ‘Finding Answers using Social Networks: Verification in Referral-based Crowd-sourcing’. More than 25 students, researchers and faculty members participated in the event that was held at the Masdar Institute premises that also included a question and answer session for the benefit of the audience.

Dr. Joe Cecchi, Provost, Masdar Institute, said: “Hosting renowned experts for seminars is part of Masdar Institute’s initiative to raise awareness among the students and the general community on the practical applications of advanced technologies. As a research-focused institution, we also aim to emphasize the importance of highlighting the outcome of various research activities in science, engineering and technology. We are confident the insights offered by Victor Naroditskiy at the seminar will encourage the students to seek innovation and benchmark themselves in the world of scientific research. We thank the UAE’s leadership for their continuous guidance in consolidating the status of Masdar Institute as one of the world-class institutions.”

Victor Naroditskiy is a post-doctoral researcher in Prof Nick Jennings’s group at the University of Southampton in the UK. Engaged in the study of incentives from both theoretical and practical angles, Naroditskiy approaches game-theoretic problems with algorithmic solutions and computational tools. He obtained his Ph.D. in Computer Science under the guidance of Amy Greenwald from Brown University, Rhode Island.

Naroditskiy said: “Social networks facilitate efficient and fast search for rare information. This process occurs as individuals who are already involved in the search, share their quest with their friends, in effect ‘referring’ them. This type of crowd-sourcing is termed as ‘referral-based’. In this work, any team that is seeking information incorporates verification in the crowd-sourcing process, helping filter out false submissions before they reach the center. It is important to note that the problem of verification is in no way specific to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Network Challenge, but a subject of current research in crowd-sourcing tasks including content annotation, user recommendations, and disaster relief.”

Naroditskiy cited the example of DARPA Network Red Balloon Challenge, in which 10 red weather balloons were placed at undisclosed locations across Continental US and participating teams competed to be the first to locate all of the balloons and win US$40,000 prize.

On the lessons learnt from the DARPA Network Challenge from the scientific and practical standpoints, Naroditskiy pointed out that they are almost solely drawn from the different team strategies to maximize the awareness and subsequent enrollment into the search by the different competing teams. These strategies ranged from relying on people’s altruism to help in the search, to web-based marketing to large communities of interest, as well as to pure financial incentives.

Naroditskiy added: “Recruiting people (to contribute to the Challenge) represents only half of the story. The other half is the challenge of distinguishing accurate information from the thousands of sources, especially during the DARPA Network Red Balloon Challenge. For instance, the majority of submissions of balloon sightings received by the team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), turned out to be false – either by sabotage or by mistake. And the task of verification turned out to be the most challenging, time consuming, and likely the single most decisive factor in the competition. In MIT’s case, this task was performed using a time-consuming ad-hoc heuristic procedure implemented in the form of a mixture of common-sense geo-location rules and direct verification by making phone calls to participants.”

The MIT team was the eventual winner at the DARPA Network Red Balloon Challenge. The MIT’s recruitment mechanism has been recently highlighted in the prestigious ‘Science’ magazine article titled ‘Time-Critical Social Mobilization’ and further analyzed in the framework of query incentive networks. However, little is known about the adequacy/optimality of its verification strategy, or any other team’s approach.

The seminar at Masdar Institute is significantly relevant to both the corporate sector and the general community in the UAE. According to the law firm DLA Piper, only 41% of the businesses surveyed in the UAE have a social media presence, compared to 76% in the UK. Of the UAE companies that do have social media presence, 26% do not have a social media policy outlining for employees as against 17% in the UK, putting the company and employees at risk, says the survey report.

Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.  With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, Masdar Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change.