Will robots replace humans at work?
As technology evolves, this question has been on the minds of many. For repetitive jobs, some are already automated. But managers and supervisors, whose jobs require higher levels of cognitive ability, should be safe—right?
Xue Guo and Zhi Cheng, two doctoral students in the Fox School’s Department of Management Information Systems, studied how the new technologies like TaskRabbit, a leading online platform to find immediate help for everyday tasks, have affected managerial-level jobs.
In analyzing data from the housekeeping industry, Guo and Cheng found a 2.9 percent decrease in the total number of offline full-time workers after the platform’s introduction—a drop mainly driven by a decrease in the number of frontline supervisors and managers.
Effects of Digital Management
The evolution of the gig economy—and the subsequent digital platforms—has created new opportunities for those searching for work. ‘Gigs’ allow people to be more selective about the employers they want to work for, receive relatively higher pay and choose from a field of work options. Even employers enjoy the flexibility of recruiting extra help as needed, reducing fixed labor costs and presenting them with options for specialized skills.
So how do these platforms change the rules of the workplace, especially for management?
To answer that question, the researchers integrated data from TaskRabbit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, aiming to better understand the impact of the gig economy for routine cognitive workers versus manual workers.
“After the entry of TaskRabbit,” says Guo, “we observed a 5.5 percent decrease in first-line managerial jobs.” Manual workers, such as cleaners and janitors, were not as affected. This suggests that the platform mostly affected middle-skill management, whose primary tasks were to arrange and schedule service in the housekeeping industry.
Managers Moving to TaskRabbit
TaskRabbit reduced the demand for offline managers in the industry by directly connecting some of the tech-savvy cleaners to their clients. According to Guo, the detailed information about clients’ requirements and workers’ qualifications “allows them to connect with each other at lower search costs.”
Not all managers who left the industry were replaced by robots, however. Supervisors who were skilled in using technology could move to these digital platforms, giving them more freedom in an online role. “On TaskRabbit, managers could recruit and supervise regular cleaners more efficiently,” reasons Guo. “The platform also provided more flexibility and autonomy, incentivizing them to move online.”
Laborers Grapple with Technology
The researchers found that TaskRabbit increased the productivity of manual workers by efficiently planning schedules, monitoring their performance and solving disputes, subsequently driving market demand. The platform also attracted workers of different skills and backgrounds while increasing labor supply and accessibility by reducing the barriers of entry to get a job.
Laborers could also take advantage of the options for flexibility and mobility. “We observed that, even though the number of jobs has reduced, we could see an increase in self-employed workers,” says Guo. “Later studies may look at the actual wage differences, but TaskRabbit can support the option of self-employment of both managers and laborers.”
Learning To Keep Up
Thanks to technological changes like these, the dynamics of the traditional workplace are continuing to shift. Generalizing to other industries, Guo mentions that these platforms increase productivity and allow for more efficient business models, but may come at a cost to the less computer literate.
The researchers, however, are positive about this emerging economy in the future of work. “The barrier to entry of TaskRabbit is not very high,” says Guo. While this skills-biased technology change is happening in the workplace, it can create new opportunities—particularly for those entrepreneurial workers willing to learn.
This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
There are two types of neighbors in a social network: the ones you know directly, and the ones your friends know. Research has shown that direct peers have a significant influence on social networks, from joining Facebook to subscribing to Netflix. Yet indirect neighbors—those with whom you have a mutual friend, but do not interact directly—can also affect behaviors.
“People want to know what others think of them,” says Paul A. Pavlou, senior associate dean of research and professor of management information systems at the Fox School, “especially those in similar positions. In order not to lose influence, an individual would eventually make the same judgment and same decision as his peers.”
Pavlou, alongside co-researchers Bin Zhang of the University of Arizona and Ramayya Krishnan of Carnegie Mellon University, studied how direct and indirect peers influence groups by using Caller Ring Back Tones (CRBT) adoption in Asian cellphone markets, in their paper published in Information Systems Research last year. In analyzing 200 million calls from 1.4 million users, the researchers overcame statistical and computational challenges of the immense dataset by using subpopulations of 200 or 500 people, each group its own network of friends.
The researchers found that, in the larger group, indirect peer influence has a significant positive effect. In the case of CRBTs, a caller’s knowledge of her acquaintances’ use of ringback tones encourage her to be “on-trend” and thus adopt the same behavior. Yet in a smaller group, a caller has a greater desire for individuality, resulting in a decision not to adopt.
This study sheds more light on the complicated, large-scale networks that exist today. By understanding how peer influence works with both direct and indirect neighbors, businesses can learn the best strategies for things like product diffusion, content creation, and software adoption within social networks. “If businesses want to trigger higher adoption rates, then for smaller groups, they only need to focus on individuals with many direct connections,” says Pavlou. “While in for larger groups, they should not only focus on popular individuals but also those who have many common friends.”
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
How much is a hashtag worth to you?
This simple symbol has become ubiquitous across many social media platforms. Started in August 2007, the hashtag, also known as the pound (#) sign, was officially adopted by Twitter in 2009 as a way to group conversations and aggregate similar themes. Now, having spread to sites like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, the hashtag has become a key element of many companies’ social media strategies. With that pervasiveness comes power—and pitfalls.
“Creating an original hashtag gives a firm control over a specific social media space,” says Subodha Kumar, professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School. Businesses can use this tool to increase recognition of their brand, generate buzz, and expand their audiences.
Yet creating a hashtag does not automatically mean the company owns it, says Kumar. Hashtags are susceptible to hijacking, in which competitors or consumers use the hashtag for unofficial messaging—like when McDonald’s attempted to generate positive publicity with #McDStories but instead received thousands of complaints about the fast food chain.
So, how can a company protect its social media reputation? For some, the answer lies in trademarking.
“The trademark protection of hashtags can increase consumer confidence,” says Kumar. Since the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began allowing hashtags to be registered trademarks in 2013, more and more companies are protecting their intellectual social media property. In 2015, nearly 1,400 hashtags were submitted in trademark applications. “It prevents other competitors from using similar hashtags to mislead consumers.”
However, trademarks may come with a price. “Trademarking a hashtag may prevent or restrict its use,” Kumar says. The successful spread of a hashtag lies in its ability to be used by anyone, connecting millions of Twitter threads and Instagram photos into one conversation. By trademarking, companies could be stifling this kind of organic engagement.
Little research has been done to understand whether a trademarked hashtag makes a firm’s social media audience more or less engaging. Kumar, along with Naveen Kumar of the University of Memphis and Liangfei Qiu of the University of Florida, wanted to know: does trademarking a hashtag defeat its original purpose?
Kumar and his co-authors investigated the tension in these two opposing sides—the organic nature of a hashtag and the restrictive nature of a trademark—in their paper, “A Hashtag is Worth a Thousand Words: An Empirical Investigation of Social Media Strategies in Trademarking Hashtags.”
The researchers compared firm-level tweet data from 102 companies, split between a “treated” group of companies who had trademarked a hashtag between 2014 and 2017 and a “control” group of similar firms. The study compared tweets from before and after the hashtag’s trademark approval, analyzing the level of engagement through likes, comments, and tweets, as well as the linguistic content of the tweet, including its emotions, tone, and style.
Based on this study, Kumar and his colleagues discovered some key factors of making a trademarked hashtag work for a company:
1. Companies that trademark hashtags have higher social media engagement.
This study is the first to identify that trademarking hashtags can improve firms’ engagement with its audiences on social media—though the effects have varying levels of intensity for different types of firms and social strategies. “Trademarking a hashtag can increase the number of retweets by 27 percent,” says Kumar, “which is a considerable amount.”
Yet firms can not trademark hashtags arbitrarily. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office treats hashtags like any other trademark: in order to be approved, the company needs to prove that the hashtag is a key part of the firm’s identity and that trademarking works in the consumers’ favor by preventing or reducing confusion.
2. Trademarking hashtags works better for smaller, less popular companies with fewer Twitter followers.
While the study demonstrates that trademarking increases social media engagement, Kumar and his colleagues investigated how this effect varies among different types of firms. After comparing the companies in the top and bottom percentiles in terms of Twitter followers, the researchers found that firms with fewer Twitter followers had more significant increases in their engagement after trademarking hashtags than companies with larger followings.
Kumar hypothesizes that small companies see larger positive effects because fewer consumers are aware of their brands and products. “Without trademark protection, other competitors can easily use similar hashtags to mislead consumers,” he says. “In contrast, for popular firms with more Twitter followers, it is more difficult to mislead consumers, even in the absence of trademark protections.”
3. Writing styles are more important to firms that use trademarked hashtags.
The researchers also studied how companies used language in their social media strategies to understand the key drivers that cause trademarking hashtags to increase engagement. “This is based on the assumption that the way that people use words reflect how they think,” says Kumar. For example, using pronouns can reflect a self-centered focus, or using prepositions and conjunctions can indicate more nuanced thinking.
The study found that when hashtags are trademarked, a firm’s writing style becomes more important to its social media engagement. “People tend to like a more narrative and informal writing style in tweets,” Kumar says. The researchers saw that more positive, colloquial, and confident writing increase retweeting by up to 10 percent.
4. Effects of increased social media engagement last longer when hashtags are trademarked.
Recognizing that trademarking is a lengthy and expensive process, the researchers sought to discover whether the increased engagement lasted in the long term.
“Before trademarking hashtags, writing more tweets with desirable linguistic styles has only a contemporaneous effect,” says Kumar, meaning that the tweets’ increase in engagement was immediate, but dropped off quickly. After one month, it was no longer significant. “Trademarking hashtags makes things different,” Kumar says. After trademarking, the researchers found that the effects of increased engagement were still happening a month later.
Based on their research, Kumar and his colleagues believe that, especially for smaller companies with fewer followers, trademarking their intellectual social property, like hashtags, is a worthwhile investment. However, to get the maximum bang for your buck, Kumar suggests that companies consider the longevity of their chosen hashtag.
Social media can be fleeting, so invest wisely.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
To swipe or not to swipe?
Online dating has come a long way since the days of OKCupid in the early aughts. Today, phrases like “Tinder date” have become part of society’s lexicon, and we have stopped buying a stranger a drink in a bar and started double tapping an Instagram photo from home.
What is different today? Instead of logging into a dating site on a computer, romance seekers now have mobile apps at their fingertips.
JaeHwuen Jung, assistant professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) at the Fox School of Business, investigated the changing business behind online dating to learn why companies are spending more money on developing mobile applications instead of web platforms.
With apps like Tinder and Bumble, data scientists have a trove of unbiased data from which they can extract insights. “We are able to trace the actions of both parties,” says Jung. “We are able to see who is meeting who, what type of profiles they have, and [what] sort of messages they are exchanging.” This provides a unique opportunity for researchers to analyze data untainted from other collection processes, like simulated experiments.
Jung says that dating is only one of many examples of how our phones have completely transformed the way in which we behave—and companies have caught on.
In his paper, “Love Unshackled: Identifying the Effect of Mobile App Adoption in Online Dating,” which has been recently accepted for publication at MIS Quarterly, Jung used the online dating world to identify three drivers of why users, and subsequently companies, are moving from web to mobile: ubiquity, impulsiveness, and disinhibition.
- Ubiquity: the capacity of being everywhere, especially at the same time
- Impulsiveness: having the power to be swayed by emotional or involuntary impulses
- Disinhibition: a lack of restraint and disregard to social norms
With the ubiquity of smartphones, users are able to access mobile apps at any given time and location. Features like instant notifications, location sharing, and urgency factors, like Tinder’s daily allowance of five ‘Super Likes,’ have allowed users to stay constantly connected.
“We use our mobiles in the most personal locations, like our beds and bathrooms,” says Jung. For some, their phones may seem surgically attached to their hands.
With phones constantly by their sides, people more readily give in to their impulses, reacting to their moods or thoughts instinctively. Users can respond to such feelings—such as responding to a flirtatious message or liking a post—without a second thought.
“We found that [mobile platforms] change users’ daily lifestyle patterns,” says Jung. “Compared to those who use web platforms, mobile users have the luxury to log on earlier, later, and more frequently.”
When a sense of privacy is assumed, users feel more anonymous on mobile—and are thus less likely to follow social norms. This disinhibition creates higher levels of engagement on mobile devices, Jung found, as users were more likely to engage in actions that they were less likely to do outside of the app.
“We saw that replies and views of [profiles of people with] different races, education levels, and even height, became more apparent through mobile apps,” says Jung. “This has us questioning, can this [disinhibition] change viewpoints in real life?”
Like any business plan, owners try to keep customers coming back for more. These three key features—ubiquity, impulsiveness, and disinhibition—help companies keep users online every time they unlock their phones. With the convenience provided by apps, dating has become more successful for users and has benefited companies as well.
“If people leave happy,” Jung says, “they will bring more new customers [to the app.]”
With the surge of app monetization, developers are able to make 55% of their mobile revenue through video ads, display ads, and native ads, according to Business Insider. Mobile apps have become a win-win situation as more people choose to scroll on the go.
Jung’s paper is the first of its kind to examine the causal impact of companies’ mobile channels in addition to their web presence. What can we say? All’s fair in love, war, and big data.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
Peace has finally been brokered in a long-standing argument between two schools of thought in statistical science.
Research from Deep Mukhopadhyay, professor of statistical science, and Douglas Fletcher, a PhD student, was accepted for publication in Scientific Reports, a journal by Nature Research. Their research marks a significant step towards bridging the “gap” between two different schools of thought in statistical data modeling that has plagued statisticians for over 250 years.
“There are two branches of statistics: Bayesian and Frequentist,” says Mukhopadhyay. “There is a deep-seeded division, conceptually and operationally, between them.” The fundamental difference is the way they process and analyze the data. Bayesian statistics incorporates external domain-knowledge into data analysis via so-called “prior” distribution.
“Frequentists view ‘prior’ as a weakness that can hamper scientific objectivity and can corrupt the final statistical inference,” says Mukhopadhyay. “I could come up with ten different kinds of ‘prior’ if I asked ten different experts. Bayesians, however, view it as a strength to include relevant domain-knowledge into the data analysis.” This has been a disagreement in statistics over the last 250 years.
So, which camp is right? “In fact, both are absolutely right,” says Mukhopadhyay. In their paper, they argued that a better question to ask is, how can we develop a mechanism that incorporates relevant expert-knowledge without sacrificing the scientific objectivity?
The answer, Mukhopadhyay says, can ultimately help design artificial intelligence capable of simultaneously learning from both data and expert knowledge—a holy grail problem of 21st Century statistics and AI.
“The science of data analysis must include domain experts’ prior scientific knowledge in a systematic and principled manner,” Mukhopadhyay says. Their paper presents Statistical rules to judiciously blend data with domain-knowledge, developing a dependable and defensible workflow.
“That is where our breakthrough lies,” says Mukhopadhyay. “It creates a much more refined ‘prior,’ which incorporates the scientist’s knowledge and respects the data, so it’s a compromise between your domain expertise and what the data is telling me.”
Answering that question—when and how much to believe prior knowledge—offers dozens of real-world applications for Mukhopadhyay’s work. For example, healthcare companies can use apply this to new drugs by leveraging doctors’ expertise without being accused of cherry picking data for the sake of a speedy or unusually successful clinical trial.
Mukhopadhyay thanks Brad Efron of Stanford University, for inspiring him to investigate this problem. “It took me one and a half years to come up with the right question,” says Mukhopadhyay. “I believe Bayes and Frequentist could be a winning combination that is more effective than either of the two separately in this data science era.”
*This article corrects an earlier version by specifying that the research was published in Scientific Reports, a journal by Nature Research.
Learn more about Fox School Research.
Do you find it unfair when a friend gets a referral bonus after you bought the product they recommended? According to new research, the answer largely depends on social distance—or the closeness of a relationship—between the new and existing customer.
In the last five years, the percentage of U.S. citizens with social media profiles has grown from 56% to 81%. Companies want to take advantage of their customers’ social networks, so many encourage customers to promote their products by offering monetary incentives for referrals.
Researchers Yili Hong of Arizona State, Paul A. Pavlou of Temple University, Nan Shi of Shanghai University, and Kanliang Wang of Renmin University of China investigated the success of these online social referrals, with particular interest in the social distance between customers and their expectations of fairness in the distribution of referral rewards.
The research outlines three types of online referral incentives: rewards that go to only the existing customer, to only the new customer, or divided equally between the two. Groupon, for example, offers a monetary bonus to those who have made successful referrals. However, Dropbox splits their reward equally between both the old and new clients.
The researchers conducted both lab and field experiments with people in two types of personal relationships: a long social distance, such as an acquaintance; and a small social distance, such as a friend or a close relative.
Hong, Pavlou, Shi, and Wang found that acquaintances in long social distance relationships prefer the monetary reward to be split equally. But for close friends with a small social distance, people are less concerned about the fairness of the reward.
Interestingly, online referrals are more successful between friends with smaller social distances, despite the reward not being fairly split between friends.
The study is the first of its kind to consider both fairness and social distance in social commerce. “While fairness has been viewed as a fundamental prerequisite to successful referrals, it is only important for distant acquaintances and not close friends,” says Pavlou, senior associate dean and Milton F. Stauffer Professor in the Fox School of Business at Temple University.
This research provides new insight for companies designing online referral systems. Based on these findings, Pavlou says, “Companies can experiment with less than equal (fair) referrals to maximize the success of the referral while minimizing the cost of the reward.”
Learn more about Fox School Research.
Healthcare in this United States is a lightning rod for debate. As Congress grapples with the future of the Affordable Care Act, the American people face uncertainty in medical care and costs.
To improve the efficiency, quality, and cost-effectiveness for patient care, hospitals have increasingly turned digital, using Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems to store and share patient’s medical history. However, as the use of EMR systems increased, so did reported healthcare costs.
Since the adoption of the physician coding systems used to store and update EMRs in 2009, Medicare has experienced an estimated $380 million increase in reimbursements per year. Medicare accused hospitals of “upcoding,” or illegally overstating patients’ diagnoses and treatment, in an effort to receive a higher reimbursement. A 2012 study showed that hospitals in Utica, NY, and Nashville, TN, increased its patient reimbursement claims by 43% and 82% respectively after adopting EMR systems.
In response to this drastic surge in reimbursements, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducted a pilot program, the Recovery Audit Program, from 2004 to 2010. Researchers at the Fox School partnered with researchers at McGill University to study how this audit program has been able to reduce illegal Medicare reimbursement claims, thus lessening the financial burden on American taxpayers.
The initial goal of implementing EMRs was to lower costs by reducing medical errors, over-testing, and re-admissions. But the findings of Dr. Kartik K. Ganju of McGill and Drs. Hilal Atasoy and Paul Pavlou of Temple University, confirmed that the adoption of the coding system is associated with an increase in Medicare reimbursements, particularly in the case of for-profit hospitals.
The research found an average of $217,745 in inflated reimbursements to Medicare per hospital per year, and even higher costs (nearly $370,000 in overages) at for-profit hospitals. After finding $693 million in overpayments by Medicare in six pilot states, the audit program was adopted nationwide in 2010.
The researchers looked into this “trillion-dollar conundrum” and found that the audit program successfully combated upcoding by using default templates and by identifying and removing cloned records of old patient that were erroneously copied into a new patient’s medical chart. After the audit became nationwide, the study found that it had corrected up to $2 billion in incorrect claims; yet for-profit hospitals were still reporting high reimbursement fees than their nonprofit counterparts.
The bottom line? While EMRs have enhanced coordination and information sharing, they also make it easier to report expensive and potentially inappropriate healthcare expenses.
As the first successful evaluation of the Recovery Audit Program, the researchers praise the work that has been done, but warn that stronger oversight by the government is still needed to combat ever-increasing costs, especially at for-profit hospitals.
Learn more about Fox School Research.
When looking for a restaurant, bakery, plumber, or lawyer, you’re likely to visit sites like Yelp or Angie’s List to help make a choice. In fact, recent research shows that 78 percent of consumers in the United States will read online reviews prior to making a purchase or decision. Meanwhile, businesses can use these review sites to interact more directly with their customers, through tools like new owner response features.
How does this online interaction translate into real-world performance? Dr. Subodha Kumar, professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, conducted a study to find out.
Kumar examines the impact of the adoption of the business owner response feature within online review platforms in his paper, “Exit, Voice, and Response in Digital Platforms: An Empirical Investigation of Online Management Response Strategies,” which was accepted for publication in the Information Systems Research, an A-level journal.
Businesses that use the response features saw an increased number of mobile “check-ins” through sites like FourSquare and Facebook. Although the feature has been beneficial for businesses that use it, the key to consistent success resides in the need for companies to stay up-to-date with ways to connect with their consumers, both present and future.
“Overall, the new features supported through digital platforms will help businesses develop the right engagement strategy, improve consumer experience, and generate more reviews and consumer traffic, which will ultimately open more revenue generating opportunities for both the digital platforms and businesses,” said Kumar. This strategy will essentially drive higher website traffic and, if done well, enhance customer relations.
The study also found that use of the online response feature impacted the performance of nearby businesses. For example, in analyzing the performance of nearby restaurants in direct competition, businesses that directly engaged with customers online increased their number of check-ins, while businesses that did not use the features saw a decrease. This spillover effect suggests that businesses must be aware of how their neighbors and competitors are engaging with customers online in order to optimize their own digital strategies.
With the growth of mobile check-ins, social media, and online reviews, the research possibilities are evolving as well. “A future research direction is to examine which types of online management responses are more likely to attract consumers and enhance business performance,” said Kumar.
Dr. Subodha Kumar recently joined the Fox School. He will be a part of the Data Science Institute, an interdisciplinary body that connects multiple disciplinary perspectives to increase collaboration in the fields of computer science, math and statistics, and business knowledge.
Learn more about Fox School Research.
Scott Bruce, a Fox School of Business PhD candidate in the Statistical Science department, recently had his paper, “A Scalable Framework for NBA Player and Team Comparisons Using Player Tracking Data,” accepted for publication in the Journal of Sports Analytics.
In this paper, Bruce discusses the endless possibilities yielded by creating new statistics that can quantify aspects of player tracking and ball movements during games through Principal Components Analysis. “This method is very scalable in the sense that as new statistics emerge in the future, this approach can again be applied using the new existing data to reconstruct,” said Bruce. With numerous applications already existing in personnel management, Bruce presented two case studies to further investigate statistical profiles amongst players and teams of interest.
Traditional statistics primarily focus on reporting players’ shot attempts, makes, and points per game. However, as analysis advances, shots and points can be further broken down in order to calculate players’ offensive preferences and the effect this has on the team as a whole. “When comparing players, this allows for much better and more intuitive comparisons as seen in our case study, and for team comparisons, we saw that the player tracking statistics also helped us better understand how teams approach winning and how that impacted their success,” Bruce said.
With the release of player tracking data and statistics motivating Bruce to work on this type of research, he is also eager to see what discoveries its implementation will lead to. “I hope this can also be seen as a good example of how statistical methods can be applied to increasingly complex data to efficiently extract useful and meaningful information,” Bruce said. Hoping that his work will encourage broader use of player comparison metrics and evaluation, Bruce sees this as a good starting point for personnel management decision-making as well.
This paper won Bruce an award from the 2015 Fox Research Competition, after which he was greatly encouraged to get it published. “The department and faculty are extremely supportive of student research. The research competition, young scholars forum, conference travel awards provide students with great opportunities to share and improve their research,” Said Bruce.
Bruce is currently working on his dissertation with Dr. Cheng Yong Tang (Temple University) and Dr. Robert Krafty (University of Pittsburgh), focusing on time-frequency analysis of replicated nonstationary time series, looking for applications in modern biomedical experiments.
Undeniably, there is a significant amount of time and effort that goes into creating a competitive research proposal that is well received, positively reviewed, and ultimately funded. The drive to be successful is a quality that is innate to Temple University’s Fox School of Business, and Dr. Zhigen Zhao, Assistant Professor of Statistical Science, is a prime example of this ethos. Zhao recently received a prestigious Big Data grant from the National Science Foundation, and expects that the findings from his research will help to revolutionize the way that data is analyzed in modern statistical investigations. From the results of these investigations, Zhao expects that the research will have applications in numerous areas, from elements of microarray gene experiments, to next-generation sequencing, satellite remote sensing, and even to yearly academic progress reports.
Dr. Zhao explained the challenging concept through its relation to a traditional pastry, “Take the Chinese dessert “sesame ball”,” Zhao said. “When putting a certain number of sesames on the surface randomly, packing theories will provide us with a distribution of the distance between every sesame seed”. In the study sponsored by NSF, this mathematical method, known as “geometric packing”, will provide the distribution of the distances between points of information.
“The most interesting, but also most challenging problem in big data analysis, is that the number of features grows dramatically concurrent to the evolvement of modern technology,” Zhao said. However complex the research may be, Dr. Zhao and his team are optimistic, and excited, to embark on the quest in hopes of redefining computational sequences in data and information systems.
The ultimate goal of this research is to achieve significant developments that will be utilized not only for Big Data interests, but also made publicly available for use by others. For example, by integrating a solution into software applications designed for mass-market consumer use, this project will truly exemplify the idea of research with a broader impact. Through these efforts, Dr. Zhao believes his research will be an example of how to successfully address Big Data challenges to the benefit of multiple stakeholders.
Sarah Diomande, SMC ‘18
One of the first-established academic departments at Temple University’s Fox School of Business is getting a new name, and is set to introduce a new undergraduate degree program.
The Fox School’s Department of Statistics will soon be rebranded as the Department of Statistical Science. Additionally, the department will unveil a Bachelor of Science degree program in Statistical Science and Data Analytics. Both changes are effective for the 2016-17 academic year, following the approval in March by Temple’s Board of Trustees.
The department had been known as the Department of Statistics since its establishment in 1929, 11 years after the founding of the Fox School.
“Rebranding our department as the Department of Statistical Science reflects the breadth of our department’s academic research, the discipline’s changing landscape, and our department’s renewed focus on engaging in quality research that reshapes the field of statistics and to train new generations of statistically skilled graduates,” said Dr. Sanat K. Sarkar, Chair of the Department of Statistical Science.
The new department name, Sarkar added, is reflective of the discipline’s evolution into one that “develops newer subfields and its interdisciplinary research with scientists in modern scientific investigations involving complex data.”
In Fall 2016, the department will launch its Bachelor of Science undergraduate degree program in Statistical Science and Data Analytics. The demand for the program, said program director Dr. Alexandra Carides, has been driven by the proliferation of computing technology, software, and statistical tools for capturing and interpreting the substantial volume of data now available at the enterprise, government, and personal levels.
The program will qualify students for professions in some of the fastest-growing job sectors, according to Carides.
“The program will provide undergraduate students with the ability to select, utilize, and apply quantitative reasoning and data analytic skills to their future field of study,” said Carides, an Assistant Professor of Statistical Science. “Knowledge of statistical theory and methods has become increasingly important to students in many disciplines. As more data are collected, stored, and analyzed, students are finding it increasingly beneficial to gain expertise in statistical science to strengthen their skills and enhance their career opportunities.”
For Cassandra Reffner, winning the Temple Analytics Challenge for a second straight year was about honing her visual storytelling skills one data set at a time.
“Graphic design isn’t just about making these things look nice, but also telling a story,” Reffner said.
A senior graphic design student from the Tyler School of Art, Reffner took home the $2,500 grand prize at the third annual Temple Analytics Challenge, held Nov. 16 in the MBA Commons at the Fox School of Business.
Organized by the Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT), the competition awards prizes totaling $10,000, from corporate members of IBIT and the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies at Temmple University. The Temple Analytics Challenge focuses on making sense of big data through visualization — a key component of data analytics cited by experts as a promising path to job opportunities.
This year, the Temple Analytics Challenge awarded 10 prizes totaling $10,000. The competition saw participation increase by 300 percent over the previous year, with 395 entries. Participating teams included 719 students from eight of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges, as well as students from the State University of New York and Cornell University. The finalists came from programs in the Tyler School of Art, the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Engineering, the School of Media and Communications, the College of Public Health, and the Fox School of Business.
“The Temple Analytics Challenge emphasizes the Fox School’s commitment to teaching and research in the various fields connected to big data,” said Dr. M. Moshe Porat, Dean of the Fox School of Business and the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management. “But big data and data visualization are academic components in which students across Temple University regularly engage. This truly was a university-wide competition.”
Corporate partners provided competitors with large sets of data that they must analyze and visualize in a way that is both innovative and accessible. This year’s partners included Merck Pharmaceuticals, QVC, and The Pennsylvania Ballet.
Reffner, who won the Temple Analytics Challenge in 2014, chose to work with the data from The Pennsylvania Ballet, saying she could see the visuals presented within the data set. In the Pennsylvania Ballet challenge, students had to conceptualize the best way for the company to attract new audience members.
“With our limited resources, we just don’t have the time or the staff to do this kind of imagining,” said David Gray, executive director of The Pennsylvania Ballet. “Having so many smart and creative people trying to help us address challenges is a godsend.”
To expand on the project’s proposal, Reffner scrolled through various mentions the company received on social media — from Tweets and hashtags to status updates — to see what about the company got people talking. She said was intrigued by the company’s position as a “19th-century product for a 21st-century audience,” and drafted a plan that took this value and social media’s talk-back feature to improve customer interaction. She suggested a redesign of The Pennsylvania Ballet’s website to respond on all devices, including desktops, smartphones, and tablets, so customers could interact with the ballet by any means necessary.
“The main thing I look for (in the Temple Analytics Challenge) is to see if I can solve the problem, to really step into their shoes to see what they want,” Reffner said.
Reffner and 19 other finalists went before a panel of judges comprised of industry leaders, including representatives from Lockheed Martin, Campbell’s Soup Company, Deloitte Consulting and AmerisourceBergen. The judges were impressed with the overall dedication the students brought to the challenge.
Reffner, who received employment interest from two companies based upon her presentation, reflected positively on how the challenge opened up opportunities to students from all majors and schools.
“This competition is not focused toward any specific major,” Reffner said. “It’s people from all over the place that entered the competition. That’s why I love the Temple Analytics Challenge.”
Beyond The Pennsylvania Ballet challenge, student participants had the choice of two others. The Merck challenge tasked students with synthesizing data to show how a vaccine will best benefit world health. QVC provided data relating to product placement in various markets and asked students to show how this data could predict where it should next focus its attention.
“Data alone is just information. It’s usage to inspire change or action and turning it into competitive intelligence is where the value lies, and the Temple Analytics Challenge did just that,” said Maurice Whetstone, QVC’s Director of Enterprise Data Management.
“Analytics in business, and especially in healthcare, is an amazing lever toward gaining unique insight to improve business performance,” said Bill Stolte, the Executive Director of Merck’s IT Business Performance Analytics. “It is an honor to be actively engaged in the Temple Analytics Challenge, and it is remarkable to watch Temple University students rapidly self-organize and use data and visualizations in innovative ways to solve complex problems.”
The inspiration for his co-authored research paper, Brad Greenwood said, materialized rather organically.
“I was in the backseat of an UberX vehicle,” Greenwood said, “and I wrote myself a cell phone note: ‘Call Sunil about writing an Uber paper.’”
According to research by Greenwood and Sunil Wattal, professors at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, the introduction of UberX, a low-cost, ride-sharing service, has led to the reduction of alcohol-related vehicular fatalities in California.
Their research findings have been featured widely in mainstream national and international media outlets, including Newsweek, Fox News, Forbes, Canada’s Globe and Mail, Britain’s Daily Mail, Quebec’s La Presse, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Tech Times, and others. Their working paper, titled, “Show Me The Way To Go Home: An Empirical Investigation of Ride Sharing and Alcohol Related Motor Vehicle Homicide,” is under review for publication in an academic journal.
Uber is a mobile-app-based service through which consumers can call for transportation to and from any destination. The system requires credit card registration prior to usage, which means no physical money changes hands in the transaction. Available in more than 50 countries, Uber’s popularity has soared recently, and an August 2015 report from Reuters suggests that Uber’s bookings in 2016 could exceed $26 billion.
Greenwood and Wattal are believed to have written the first academic paper investigating the effects of Uber on reducing alcohol-related vehicular homicides.
“The issue is timely and fresh. Everyone is talking about Uber,” said Wattal, an Associate Professor of Management Information Systems (MIS) at Fox.
“There was evidence that Uber could be linked to such decreases in fatalities, but the question as to whether it could be tied together rigorously, and under certain circumstances, wasn’t yet known,” said Greenwood, an Assistant Professor of MIS.
Using publicly available data obtained from the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Report System, for a period between January 2009 and September 2014, Greenwood and Wattal analyzed reports that included the blood-alcohol content of the driver, contributing factors like weather, speed, and environmental factors, and the number of parties involved in the accidents. Greenwood and Wattal said they chose to review California’s data because Uber is headquartered in San Francisco, and the ride-sharing service has been available in that state longer than in any other.
In their research, they found that alcohol-related deaths decreased by an average of 3.6-5.6 percent in cities where UberX service, the least-expensive service offered by Uber, is available. They also found limited evidence of change in conjunction with the use of Uber Black, the most-expensive service, which requires a luxury vehicle.
Other findings from the co-authored research paper include:
- The effects of UberX on the number of alcohol-related fatalities took hold, on average, from nine to 15 months following Uber’s introduction to a particular city, “after Uber has built up a network of customers and drivers in that marketplace,” Greenwood said.
- There was little to no effect in periods of likely surge pricing, a system that allows Uber to increase the cost of the services rendered dependent upon the consumer demand.
- There was no effect between Uber and overall deaths, indicating that the entry of Uber is not making roads more dangerous for sober people.
For Greenwood, who has previously studied the societal benefits of technologies, and Wattal, who has researched online crowdfunding and peer-to-peer economies, their research interests overlapped, which made this project a natural choice on which they could collaborate. Unsurprisingly, their Uber research, which was independently funded, has generated requests for follow-up studies.
“We could try to replicate this study in the context of other states to see if the data is robust,” Wattal said, “but that could take considerable time, given that Uber is not available everywhere and that data is not as readily available in other states.”
“The options are endless for this type of work,” Greenwood said.
Colorful Post-It notes lined the walls inside the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, each one containing intricate details on how to improve Philadelphia’s mass-transit system.
At the fifth-annual Fox DESIGNchallenge, a civic innovation challenge, students aimed to collaboratively transform their ideas into meaningful change in their community. This year’s objective focused upon identifying problem areas and generating feasible solutions in mass transit, car culture and the quality of urban life.
The event, organized by the Center for Design+Innovation (cD+i) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business and the Design for Social Impact Program at The University of the Arts, rendered two first-place teams.
“SEPTA is something everyone understands. It impacts everybody because it’s the network that moves the city,” said James Moustafellos, Associate Director of cD+i and an Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems at Fox. “The whole issue SEPTA is facing is, how do you have mass transit in a city that has a car culture?”
One of the winning teams provided methods for creating a more-enjoyable experience for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) passengers. The team members, including four Fox School students and one from Temple’s Tyler School of Art, designed a SEPTA “Smart Shelter.” The enclosed bus stop would provide digital information boards indicating arrival times and routes, and a well-lit interior as a safety precaution.
Another first-place team, featuring three Fox students, centered its designs on revamping existing SEPTA technology. The team suggested creating a new payment system using smart-phone applications, as well as providing video boards on concourse levels to display arrival times and available capacity on incoming trains.
“The result was to form a less auto-centric future for the city,” Moustafellos said. “A lot of the students’ designs centered around convenience, quality and cleanliness of the system, safety and communication methods.”
The Fox DESIGNchallenge brought together 150 students from colleges and high schools in the region, forming 20 teams geared toward solving the problem. First- and second-place teams received cash prizes. In addition to receiving monthly vouchers from SEPTA, the proposals from top-three finishers may be displayed on video boards throughout SEPTA’s transit system.
In the lead-up to the Feb. 25 final presentations at the Kimmel Center, teams interviewed civic, business and community leaders at a networking roundtable discussion. Then, they researched areas of interest, identified community problems and opportunities and ultimately complied their work to assemble design solutions that are humanly feasible and economically satisfying.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, Philadelphians could save an average of $12,000 per year by eliminating one car or by using public transportation more frequently.
“This is more than just a fun exercise,” Moustafellos said. “It’s really about experiential learning at its best. It’s about civic engagement. You become much more aware of the place you live in, its issues and how you can become an active participant in your society and make a change.”
“Design is much more than just look and feel nowadays,” said Dr. Youngjin Yoo, the Harry A. Cochran Professor of Management Information Systems and the Director of cD+i. “Companies like Apple, Samsung, IBM and P&G have shown us that design must be embraced as core strategic capability of a company, not just an afterthought. The DESIGNchallenge is an important component of the Fox MBA program. This gives a first-hand, real-life experience of designing solutions for complex business problems.”
The Fox DESIGNchallenge was funded in part by The Knight Foundation and the U.S. Economic Development Agency, through support of Temple’s Urban Apps and Maps Studios.
A professor from Temple University’s Fox School of Business has been named a Microsoft MVP.
Professor of Statistics Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, whose passion for teaching students the ins and outs of Microsoft Excel, earned distinction as one of Microsoft’s 2015 Most Valuable Professionals. This marks the second straight year Gottlieb has been so recognized.
Microsoft’s MVP Award is presented to exceptional community leaders who are committed to sharing their technical expertise and real world knowledge of Microsoft products within their community and with Microsoft.
It all started with a simplified idea, Gottlieb said. After teaching separate software methods to students studying varying subjects, he said he sought out to find a “one-stop shop” to make learning easier for students. Microsoft Excel was his portal, and he’s come to perfect the system.
“I discovered that every subject that you teach, whether it’s statistics, operations management or analytics, has different software,” Gottlieb said. “It takes almost half a semester to master that software and, by the time you know the software, you don’t have time to practice the subject.”
Gottlieb said he started to apply statistics, operations management and analytics into Excel and began teaching his method.
“So that’s how I became an expert. It took me two years to perfect it,” he said.
According to Gottlieb, Excel has not changed much within the last 12 years, except perhaps the interface. Microsoft did recently add Business Intelligence in the last two years, he said.
“Once you master it, it’s like playing the piano,” Gottlieb said. “After a while, you just learn new music.”
Gottlieb was presented with Microsoft’s MVP Award in January. As a recipient, he has had the opportunity to meet with other Microsoft professionals from around the world. In November 2014, he attended the MVP Summit at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash.
Although there are more than 1,800 MVPs, very few are masters in Excel, Gottlieb said. Because of his expertise, Microsoft’s professionals have asked Gottlieb to hold a workshop at one of its Excel centers in Singapore.
While in Singapore, he said, “(Microsoft’s) development team contacted me and asked for my analytic ideas for its upcoming version of Excel.”
There’s no denying that Excel is Gottlieb’s forte. He has published a book on the subject, titled, Next Generation Excel: Modeling In Excel For Analysts and MBAs (For MS Windows and Mac OS), (Wiley 2013). He also has an Excel-Tip-Of-The–Month newsletter that is distributed to more than 50,000 subscribers.
Gottlieb teaches more than 1,500 students annually at the Fox School, and all incoming Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD), Master’s of Business Administration (MBA), Master’s of Science (MS) and Bachelor’s of Business Administration (BBA) students are required to complete his online Excel workshop during their respective programs.
“After you teach so many people for so many years, (Excel) becomes natural,” he said.
(To subscribe to Gottlieb’s newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)