Rajapintapäivät brought together researchers of social and computer sciences

Digital and computational social science approaches are raising interest among researchers. Rajapintapäivät gathered more than fifty scholars in Otaniemi in mid-November to discuss their research and issues related to interdisciplinary collaboration.

Rajapinta is a scientific association and researcher community that advocates the social scientific study of ICT and ICT applications to social research. The association aims to improve interdisciplinary collaboration and to provide opportunities for meetings and networking. The association’s second annual event Rajapintapäivät, supported by HIIT, was organized in Otaniemi on November 16-17. Despite its Finnish name, the majority of the event’s content was in English.

The event’s themes were related to many forms of interdisciplinary research involving social sciences and computing: for example, using machine learning for social science research, the design of digital systems, coding education, large-scale data collection from social media, and studies of software and developers.

Rajapintapäivät drew together approximately 50 participants in the main event. The majority were academics from different fields of social science or computer science, along with scholars from humanities and legal studies, and a handful of representatives of the public sector, private sector analytics firms and civil society organizations.

The event’s workshop day on November 16th saw three workshops. One focused on the ethical challenges of research projects involving digital data and digital methods. The second workshop discussed infrastructures for data-intensive social sciences in Finland. The third workshop was a thesis seminar aimed for students working on a Master’s thesis on relates to digital society, social scientific study of ICT, or ICT applications to social research.

The main event was an unconference on November 17th. In an unconference, the content is provided by the participants in a self-organized manner, and the space was open for anyone interested to organize a session. There were altogether 24 sessions in the unconference programme. The day included, in addition to regular academic presentations, several more experimental sessions; for example an open fishbowl panel on studying algorithms and spreading knowledge on good digital privacy practices for researchers. A further example was a peer meeting organized by data scientists working in social-scientific projects, covering issues such as the role data scientists could take in an interdisciplinary project, dealing with the need to know both CS and social sciences, and appropriate publication venues for results emerging from such projects. Such peer meetings were seen as a helpful means of fostering collaboration as projects including researchers with different backgrounds are increasingly common.

The event was free of charge to participants thanks to generous support by HIIT. The event was also supported by Kone Foundation.