“Evaluating Stochastic Seeding Strategies in Networks,” Dean Eckles, MIT

Event time: 
Thursday, November 8, 2018 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Institution for Social and Policy Studies (PROS77 ), A002 See map
77 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 


Abstract: When trying to maximize the adoption of a behavior in a population connected by a social network, it is common to strategize about where in the network to seed the behavior. Some seeding strategies require explicit knowledge of the network, which can be difficult to collect, while other strategies do not require such knowledge but instead rely on non-trivial stochastic ingredients. For example, one such stochastic seeding strategy is to select random network neighbors of random individuals, thus exploiting a version of the friendship paradox, whereby the friend of a random individual is expected to have more friends than a random individual. Empirical evaluations of these strategies have demanded large field experiments designed specifically for this purpose, but these experiments have yielded relatively imprecise estimates of the relative efficacy of these seeding strategies. Here we show both how stochastic seeding strategies can be evaluated using existing data arising from randomized experiments in networks designed for other purposes and how to design much more efficient experiments for this specific evaluation. In particular, we consider contrasts between two common stochastic seeding strategies and analyze nonparametric estimators adapted from policy evaluation or importance sampling. Using simulations on real networks, we show that the proposed estimators and designs can dramatically increase precision while yielding valid inference. We apply our proposed estimators to a field experiment that randomly assigned households to an intensive marketing intervention and a field experiment that randomly assigned students to an anti-bullying intervention.

Dean Eckles is a social scientist and statistician. Dean is the KDD Career Development Professor in Communications and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an assistant professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management, and affiliated faculty at the MIT Institute for Data, Systems & Society. He was previously a member of the Core Data Science team at Facebook. Much of his research examines how interactive technologies affect human behavior by mediating, amplifying, and directing social influence — and statistical methods to study these processes. Dean’s empirical work uses large field experiments and observational studies. His research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and other peer-reviewed journals and proceedings in statistics, computer science, and marketing. Dean holds degrees from Stanford University in philosophy (BA), symbolic systems (BS, MS), statistics (MS), and communication (PhD).

This workshop series is being sponsored by the ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.

Dean Eckles, KDD Career Development Professor in Communications and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Assistant Professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management