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Dynamical Processes in Interdependent Techno-social Networks
Funded by the National Science Foundation, 9/2011-8/2015
Eugene Stanley, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, David Lazer, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, Northeastern University
Devon D. Brewer, Ph.D., Co-Investigator

A multidisciplinary, data driven research project is proposed to study for the first time: i) microscopic processes ruling the dynamics of interdependent networks, especially when a social component is included in the system; and ii) mathematical models/foundational theories for the analysis of the robustness/resilience and contagion/diffusive dynamics of interdependent networks. This project will afford the opportunity of greatly expanding our understanding of realistic complex networks by joining theoretical analysis of coupled networks with extensive analysis of appropriately-chosen large-scale databases.

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research's primary responsibilities for this project include: designing and supervising the implementation of national web surveys on mobile phone use; designing a survey on mobile phone use and communication patterns with mobile phone contacts administered by smartphone application; developing and deploying the smartphone application that delivers the survey and summarizes log data on respodents' communication patterns with their contacts; managing and analyzing data from these surveys; and contributing to project reports related to these surveys. 

Measuring Contact Rates, Mixing Patterns and Influenza Transmission in Schools

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9/2011-8/2013
Marcel Salathe, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Pennsylvania State University
Devon D. Brewer, Ph.D., Consultant

Preventing and controlling infectious disease spread in humans is a key objective of public health. Mathematical and computational models can be used to predict disease dynamics and to assess the efficacy of control efforts, but in order to make reliable predictions and recommendations, models need to based on a clear understanding of both disease transmission and human contact patterns. Because school-aged children are sentinel cohorts for many infectious diseases, particularly influenza, data on contact rates and mixing patterns of school-aged children within their communities - schools, households and others - are of great importance. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of such data, severely adding to the uncertainty of model predictions. Furthermore, the extent to which disease burden in school-aged children is due to within-school disease transmission, rather than to transmission outside of the school, is largely unknown. Such knowledge is essential to evaluate social distancing measures such as school closure. We will address these issues by collecting subjective and objective interaction and location data of school-aged children and their contacts, and by implementing a surveillance system to study disease dynamics at schools. We will use a combination of surveys, mobile phones, and wireless sensor network (WSN) technology to measure contact networks and mixing patterns of school-aged children in a wide range of settings. We will furthermore sequence the complete viral genomes during influenza outbreaks at schools in order to reliably establish chains of transmission within the school. With a multi-disciplinary team experienced in surveying methods, wireless sensor network technology, mobile phone application development, molecular genetics of influenza, and mathematical and computational modeling of disease dynamics, we will generate a case study capturing influenza spread in a school population at an unprecedented level. The data will allow us to i) realistically parameterize infectious disease spread models in schools and linked populations, ii) evaluate and identify effective mitigation strategies with high confidence, iii) compare subjective and objective methods of contact data collection, and iv) identify the level of within-school transmission on disease burden in school-aged children. Overall, the study will provide novel insights that will significantly improve the development of disease prevention and control strategies.

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research's primary responsibilities for this project include: designing daily, weekly, and baseline surveys; assisting with other aspects of the project's research design and implementation; assisting with data management and analysis; and contributing to project reports. 

Improving Public Health and Medicine with Reality Mining
Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 9/2008-3/2009
Alex Pentland, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Devon D. Brewer, Ph.D., Co-Investigator

The purpose of this project is to produce a whitepaper on potential applications of reality mining--the process of inferring human activity patterns from the digital traces left by individuals' communication and other electronic devices--in clinical medicine and public health.  A conference of professionals engaged in relevant work will also be convened to discuss topics related to this broad venture and the results of the meeting will be summarized in a report. 

Daily Reports of Injection Drug Use and Risk
Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 4/2006-3/2008
Barbara Leigh, Ph.D., Principal Investigator,
University of Washington
Devon D. Brewer, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator

Injection drug users (IDUs) face high morbidity and mortality as a consequence of injection drug use. In particular, IDUs are at high risk for blood-borne infections, including HIV, hepatitis B (HBV), and hepatitis C (HCV), due to the sharing of drug injection equipment and other blood exposures. As in other areas of behavioral epidemiology, measurement issues in this domain are crucial but are difficult to address adequately. In the absence of noninvasive and ecologically valid biological or observational techniques, comprehensive measurement of drug use and risk behavior depends largely on self-reports, which are generally retrospective. Although researchers have attempted to increase the accuracy of these self-reports, a “gold standard” of measurement for these behaviors does not exist.

One approach to more valid measurement of behavior is the use of daily reports, which are assumed to be more accurate than retrospective reports covering longer time periods. Daily measurements are used in several disciplines to collect information about people’s experiences, behaviors, and life events. In research on alcohol and tobacco use, daily measurements have been used to validate retrospective measures of consumption. The purpose of this project is to conduct a pilot study in which IDUs report daily on their drug use and injection risk behavior, using an innovative technique of computerized telephone interviewing (Interactive Voice Response, or IVR). These daily reports will then be compared with retrospective measures of risk similar to those used in most epidemiologic studies of IDUs.

The goals of this exploratory project are to evaluate IVR as a tool for collecting daily reports of injection drug use and risk and to examine the quality of retrospective measurements compared to daily reports. Our aims in this project are both methodological and substantive:

1. Assess the feasibility of collecting daily reports of injection drug use and risk from IDUs and describe retention, compliance, and missing data.

2. Compare composite variables of injection drug use and risk constructed from daily reports with retrospective measures of these behaviors.

3. Assess the completeness and reliability of retrospectively reported injection partners and partnership characteristics through comparisons with the daily measurements.

4. Describe patterns of injection drug use and risk over time within individuals at the scale of hours and days.

5. Examine episode-level contemporaneous correlates of individuals’ injection drug use and risk.

Although daily reports do not yield perfect measures of behavior, they are not subject to some of the errors inherent in retrospective reports. By comparing the two kinds of measures, we can examine some of the ways in which retrospective reports may or may not capture injection drug use and risk behaviors. If we demonstrate that the use of IVR is feasible with this population, future studies can make use of a cost-effective means of measuring injection drug use and risk in IDUs.

Clients of Prostitute Women: Deterrence, Prevalence, Characteristics, and Violence

Funded by the National Institute of Justice, 9/2003-5/2006
Devon D. Brewer, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
Prostitute women are victims of physical and sexual violence at exceedingly high rates. Recent research indicates that prostitute women have the highest murder rate of any population of women ever studied. The available evidence suggests that male clients of prostitute women make up the bulk of the perpetrators. Prostitute murders are among the most difficult to solve, and in recent decades many local jurisdictions have mounted expensive and lengthy investigations of such homicides, often without resolution. In addition, vice operations against clients are more resource intensive than those against prostitutes, and these activities represent nontrivial resource commitments for many local law enforcement agencies across the country. In this project, we will address large gaps in knowledge about clients to enhance efforts to curb prostitution and develop profiles of violent clients.

The goals of this project are to:

1) Assess the specific deterrent effect of arrest for patronizing a prostitute;

2) Estimate the prevalence of clients overall and the subset of clients who are violent toward prostitutes;

3) Compare clients with the general population of men in terms of demographics and geography; and

4) Compare clients who are violent toward prostitute women with clients overall in terms of demographics, geography, and criminal history.

To achieve these goals, we will conduct secondary analysis of criminal history records, homicide files, field observations, survey data, census figures, and related information from many states and metropolitan areas in the US.  We have already obtained much of these data and during this project we will acquire the rest of the data needed.

To assess the specific deterrent effect of arrest, we will analyze a unique data set that permits calculation of the arrest rate for clients first detected through disease control activities with the rate of rearrest for those first identified by arrest.  We will estimate the prevalence of clients and violent clients for different geographic areas across the US with arrest data, field observations of violent clients, and capture-recapture statistical methods. Our comparisons of clients with the general population of men and of violent clients with clients overall will involve univariate analyses of data obtained from all sources.

Etiology and Prevention of Blood-borne Viruses in Injection Drug Users
Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9/2001-3/2007
Holly Hagan, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, National Development and Research Institutes
Devon D. Brewer, Ph.D., Co-Investigator

The etiology and prevention of blood-borne viral infections in injection drug users (IDUs) have not been fully characterized, and many questions remain regarding which injection practices may result in infection.  Viral hepatitis infections in IDUs are among the most frequently occurring blood-borne infections in humans; in low HIV-prevalence settings, morbidity and mortality in IDUs attributable to hepatitis virus infections may exceed that for HIV. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is highly prevalent in IDU-populations.  Because sexual HCV transmission is relatively rare, HCV infection may serve as a highly sensitive biologic marker of direct percutaneous exposure in drug injectors.  Increased knowledge of HCV transmission in drug injectors may contribute to understanding the mechanisms of transmission of other infections via injection practices.  The long-term goal of our research is to advance knowledge of the epidemiology, etiology and prevention of HIV and hepatitis infections in IDUs. 

We propose studies that will make new contributions toward our long-term goal: Aim 1. Examine the extent to which HCV prevention education at the Seattle needle exchange program has reduced the risk of HCV infection. Aim 2. Measure the risk of HCV seroconversion associated with specific injection risk behaviors, and calculate the risk of HCV attributable to these practices in the IDU-population. Aim 3. Compare reporting of socially-undesirable or stigmatized injection and sexual risk behavior collected by A-CASI to interviewer-administered data collection methods. Aim 4. Assess the feasibility and disease control benefits of HBV and HCV partner notification for IDUs. Aim 5. Study whether changes in hepatitis C reporting laws are associated with increased reporting in IDUs.  The significance of this research is the potential contribution to our understanding of the etiology of these infections, and examination of many practical questions related to the effectiveness of public health surveillance and prevention programs.

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research's primary responsibilities for this project are leading the work for aim 4 and assisting with the scientific aspects of the other project components.

GRACKLE: Genotypes, Risk Activity and Hepatitis C Linkages Study
Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9/1999-3/2007
Holly Hagan, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, National Development and Research Institutes
Devon D. Brewer, Ph.D., Co-investigator
The goal of this study is to examine the molecular epidemiology of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) in social networks of injection drug users (IDUs).  Drug injection partners of IDUs who seroconverted to HCV antibody positive during a larger cohort study were enrolled in this study.  We will assess both the prevalence of HCV antibody in seroconverters' personal injection networks and the genetic similarity of HCV in seroconverters and their infected partners.  This project also involves describing the structure of IDUs injection networks and evaluating supplementary interviewing techniques for eliciting injection partners.
Interdisciplinary Scientific Research's primary responsibilities for this project have been providing advice about questionnaire development, interviewing techniques, and research design, performing data analysis, and preparing manuscripts.


Medical and scientific editing and writing for ScienceDocs

Funded by ScienceDocs and their clients, 7/2015-present

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research wrote and edited diverse documents for scientists, engineers, physicians, government officials, and business professionals, including native- and non-native English speakers. Documents included technical reports, journal articles, grant proposals, resumes, formal business letters, dissertations, and speeches.

Welcome Back – Quitline Registries for Continuously Engaging Participants in Cessation

Funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10/2013-9/2014
Beatriz Carlini, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, University of Washington

The goal of this project is to evaluate a multi-faceted strategy for re-engaging relapsed smokers into quitline treatment. 

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research advised investigators on research and survey design, and developed, deployed, and maintained the interactive voice response (automated telephone interviews), e-mail, and text (SMS) systems for delivering the intervention. 

Mobile Phone Communication Patterns during Hurricane Sandy
Funded by Northeastern University, 11/2012-10/2013
David Lazer, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Northeastern University

The goal of this project is to describe mobile phone communication patterns during a natural disaster (Hurricane Sandy in the northeastern US in 2012). 

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
led the design of the study and questionnaire, developed and deployed Android smartphone application to administer a survey and summarize call and text log data, coordinated recruitment, managed data, performed data analysis, and contributed to study reports.

Social Network Analysis of the Community Engagement Key Function
Funded by the
Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeastern Wisconsin, Medical College of Wisconsin, 2012-2019
Zeno Franco, Principal Investigator, Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeastern Wisconsin, Medical College of Wisconsin

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research advised investigators on research design, data management, and data analysis and performed data management and analysis for project on the social network among health-related organizations and medical school faculty in Wisconsin.

Generating Structural and Financial Support for Tractor Retrofitting Initiatives: the Development of an Upstream Social Marketing Strategy

Funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 10/2011-9/2012
Julie Sorensen, Ph.D., Principal Investigator,
New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health

The goal of this project is to use social network analysis and social marketing strategies to build support for tractor retrofitting initiatives.  Tractor overturns are the leading cause of death on farms in the US.  

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research
advised investigators on study and questionnaire design, developed and administered web surveys on inter-organizational networks, and performed data management and analysis.

Event-level Analysis of Expectancies, Alcohol Use, and Consequences

Funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 5/2010-4/2014
Christine Lee, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, University of Washington

The goals of this project are to: (1) examine the daily relationships between alcohol expectancies and alcohol use; (2) study bidirectional influences of expectancies, consequences, and drinking over time; (3) examine whether the immediate consequences of drinking change subsequent expectancies and drinking over time; and (4) examine the time-varying and time-in varying moderators of the within-person relationships between expectancies, drinking, and consequences. 

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research advises on questionnaire and study design, and programs, deploys, and monitors an interactive voice response interview system for daily data collection.

Global Burden of Disease from Unsafe Medical Injections and Cost of Disease and Rehabilitation

Funded by the World Health Organization, 5/2010-6/2010
Savanna Reid, BA, Principal Investigator, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research performed analysis of survey data on medical injection use in sub-Saharan Africa.

Development and Reliability Study of a Daily Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire, 2008-2009
Funded by the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute
istine Lee, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, University of Washington

The goal of this project was to develop and pilot test an interactive voice response daily interview focused on drinking expectancies, behavior, and outcomes. 

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research advised on questionnaire design, and programmed, deployed, and monitored the interactive voice response interview system for data collection.

Random Digit Dial Survey of Men Who Have Sex With Men
Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 5/2006-12/2006
Matthew R. Golden, MD, MPH, Principal Investigator, University of Washington

The goal of this project is to assess various aspects of health and behavior in men who have sex with men and reside in Seattle.  This cross-sectional, probability sample survey will be used to compare with a similar survey conducted in 2003 and assess health risks not measured previously. 

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research's primary responsibilities for this project include questionnaire development, coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the survey, and contributing to manuscripts. 

Organizational Learning from Error
Funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2006
Michal Tamuz, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research's primary responsibility for this project
was to
advise investigators on questionnaire and study design for a project on medication errors and the social networks among hospital personnel. 

Adoption of BlackBerries in Law Enforcement Teams
Funded by the Department of Justice, 2004-2006
Edward Balkovich and Susan Straus, co-Principal Investogators, RAND

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research's primary responsibilities for this project
were to advise investigators on study and questionnaire design and perform data analysis.

Network Integration: Serving Clients with HIV and Serious Mental Illness
Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, 2002-2005
Paul Koegel, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, RAND

The aims of this project are to: 1) describe inter-organizational networks of care for persons with HIV and mental illness in two localities (Los Angeles and New York City); 2) explore the relationship between organizational attributes, nested network relations and client level data; and 3) examine differences between the two localities studied using all data sources with a particular emphasis on incorporating qualitative case study data. 

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research's primary responsibilities for this project were providing advice on questionnaire development, interviewing techniques, research design, and data management, performing data analysis, and contributing to manuscript preparation. 

Social Network Analysis of Sociometric Choice in Preschool Classrooms
Funded by the University of Toronto, 5/2004-9/2004
Michal Perlman, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, University of Toronto

The goal of this project is to examine the relationship betweens preschool  organizational, staff, and demographic characteristics and properties of the sociometric choice network among preschool children in several dozen different preschool classrooms. 

Interdisciplinary Scientific Research's primary responsibility for this project was data analysis. 

Literature Reviews on Interviewing Practices in and Case Finding Effectiveness of Partner Notification for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
Interdisciplinary Scientific Research conducted comprehensive literature reviews on interviewing practices in and the case finding effectiveness of partner notification for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. 
Other projects
In addition to our funded projects, we pursue internally-funded research that complements our externally-funded work. 

Writing for Scientists is our educational arm. We offer courses and tutoring on scientific writing. We also provide scientific review and advice.

Evidence Guides is our book publishing arm.

In 2008, we forecasted election outcomes for statewide races and ballot measures in selected states of the United States.  

Beginning in 2010, we developed and maintained an educational web site, HIV Risk Information, about blood-borne risks for HIV infection, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.  The educational information on that site is based in part on our research. 

We monitored trends of common respiratory and gastroenteric illnesses and assess factors related to illness with the Health Tracking Network (2011-2013). In this project, online volunteers across the world reported their illness symptoms and answered other health-related questions on a regular basis.
Visit the Publications page to see the products of our current and past projects.  

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