IDSS News April 2021
Munther Dahleh photo by Lillie Paquette MIT School of Engineering
The challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have been met by unprecedented collaborative efforts across the research community. IDSS research on testing made an impact at MIT and elsewhere, including the development of the Covid-19 Testing Impact Calculator at

As vaccines hopefully turn a corner in this global crisis, the focus has shifted from testing to vaccination, with challenges in areas like production and global distribution. Part of the challenge of vaccination is perceived risk, and in today's noisy online world, we are surrounded by misinformation that can hinder even the most effective public health messaging. From vaccines to elections, fake news has very real consequences.

Below is a look at some of the research that IDSS faculty have been doing in social networks, including a number of concrete suggestions for improving online platforms and minimizing the spread of dangerous misinformation. Let’s hope that these ideas will go half as viral as the sensational falsehoods we're all too accustomed to seeing.

Munther Dahleh, Director
William A. Coolidge Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Most people who share false news stories online do so unintentionally and their sharing habits can be modified with reminders.
Devavrat Shah suggests limiting the spread of misinformation by emphasizing content generated by a user’s own contacts rather than what's trending.
IDSS affiliates David Rand and Adam Berinsky show people are influenced more by fact-checks after they read news headlines than before.
Dean Eckles and David Rand explore how people connect with strangers online because of shared political views.
Sinan Aral tries to figure out how to keep social media from ruining the world.

Plus: listen to Aral's insights into fixing the social media crisis
WiDS Cambridge explored machine learning applications in healthcare and equity in models and algorithms.
Researchers led by Caroline Uhler identify drugs that might be repurposed to fight the coronavirus in elderly patients.

IDSS affiliate Esther Duflo teamed up with physician Fatima Cody Stanford (pictured) to develop public health messaging featuring racially diverse doctors for communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sinan Aral's and Dean Eckles' work in social media and misinformation includes a warning about public health messaging: focusing on people reluctant to get the vaccine can be counterproductive.
Build foundational knowledge of data science with this introduction to probabilistic models, including random processes and the basic elements of statistical inference.
Course starts Monday, May 3rd.