Recent THiNK Workshop at Aberdeen

I was a co-organiser, with Prof. Barbara Fennell, of Policy-making, Text Analysis, and Big Data: A Workshop in Digital Humanities and Knowledge Exchange, which was held at the University of Aberdeen, June 30 in the Sir Duncan Rice Library.
Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen.
The THiNK network is for Knowledge Exchange in the Arts and Humanities in the UK. It provides a forum in which various parties exchange knowledge about funding ideas and opportunities. I was a presenter at a recent THiNK Event in London and see also my previous post.
The follow-on workshop, Policy-making, Text Analysis, and Big Data: A Workshop in Digital Humanities/Knowledge Exchange focussed on issues relating to Text Analysis, Policy-making, and Big Data. The underlying idea is that we have to harvest textual data on a large scale in order to assist with public policy-making. The full announcement, slides, and further notes about the workshop are at the link above; below is some extracted information.

Workshop description:

Policy-making and the law are fundamental to communal life and social progress. Given that policies and law are expressed in language and in social contexts, they are a natural “object” to study in the Humanities. One new approach is to apply current text analytic and information retrieval tools to better understand the substance of the policy documents, deliberative discourse, and related documents. More broadly, textual analysis and retrieval is at the heart of a range of interdisciplinary and applied research; it is a key element of Digital Humanities. While small scale studies are feasible and illuminating, it is essential to scale up research to handle the abundance of textual information, so-called ‘Big Data’. We have organised a workshop of speakers and discussion sessions to consider the state-of-the art in policy-making, textual analysis, and Big Data as well as the opportunities for cross-disciplinary research and development. The workshop brings together academic researchers, SMEs, and the Public Sector to exchange knowledge and outline project proposals in Digital Humanities.


Professor Barbara Fennel, Department of Linguistics

Dr Adam Wyner, Department of Computing Sciences

Workshop Schedule:

  • 12:00-12:30 Registration/Lunch
  • 12:30-13:30 Session 1 Public Policy-making Practice (C. Cottrill) and Policy-making Support Tools (A. Wyner)
  • 13:30-14:30 Session 2 Deliberative Democracy in Action (M. Oliver) and Text Analysis, News Media, and Psychiatry (N. Akhtar)
  • 14:30-15:00 Coffee break
  • 15.00-16:00 Session 3 Big Data (A. Goker)
  • 16.00-17:00 Roundup
  • Presenters:

  • Caitlin Cottrill, Lecturer, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen. Caitlin will outline her knowledge about and experience in a range of policy-making contexts, particularly in domains of transportation and the environment. She will discuss some current issues and trends in policy-making.
  • Nooreen Akhtar, Research Training Fellow, Department of Applied Medicine, University of Aberdeen. Nooreen will discuss her investigations of how patients, public and stakeholders perceive and interpret information about anti-depressants in UK newspapers. It uses computational linguistic analysis and face-to-face interviews.
  • Matthew Oliver, Unlock Democracy. Unlock Democracy promotes deliberative, participatory, and transparent democratic activities by organising meetings and making available web-based tools to inform the public. Matthew is a Press and Project Manager and National Coordinator at Unlock Democracy. He will discuss aspects of Unlock Democracy and deliberative democracy.
  • Adam Wyner, Lecturer, Department of Computing Science, University of Aberdeen. Adam’s research interests are in the intersection of Law, Logic, Computer Science, and Language. Adam will present aspects of web-based tools to support deliberative, public policy-making, along with the analysis of legal materials.
  • Ayse Goker, Professor, School of Computing Science and Digital Media, Robert Gordon University. Ayse’s research interests are driven by a desire to research and improve information access and retrieval for users. Ayse has been the Principal Investigator of a range of UK and EU projects. Most recently, all the Scottish University Computing schools are partners through SICSA on the Innovation Centre bid for Data Science, with Robert Gordon University as its proposed NorthEast hub.
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    By Adam Wyner

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