Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

Introduction

Find out about social sciences at the British Library including collections, events and research. This blog includes contributions from curators and guest posts by academics, students and practitioners. Read more

15 January 2021

zbMATH Open - mathematical database now free online

zbMATH Open - the first resource for mathematics. The logo is a white square containing a small grey square in the upper left corner and a larger red square in the lower right corner

We are very happy to hear that zbMATH, one of the most important bibliographic databases in the field of mathematics, is now freely available to all online. The database is run by FIZ Karlsruhe, the European Mathematical Society and the Heidelberg Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the funding to make it free to all was provided by the Joint Science Conference, the German national government organisation for science research funding and policy.

The database covers mathematics books and scholarly articles comprehensively since 1868, with some items from considerably earlier. It includes material from the paper abstracts journals Jahrbuch über die Fortschritte der Mathematik (1868-1945) and Zentralblatt für Mathematik (1931-2013). It can be searched by author and subject as normal, but also includes searching by mathematical formula and the subject-specific Mathematics Subject Classification. It includes not just abstracts, but independent reviews of the significance of important articles, although some of these are in German rather than English. It also has both forward and backward citation data. Where possible links to the online full-text item are provided.

The administrators are currently working on developing an API to allow content from zbMATH to be used in other digital information systems on an open access basis.

Anybody with an interest in mathematics is heartily recommended to try it out.

08 December 2020

Data Debates: What does data really tell us about the generational divide?

Generations pic

Many of our recent COVID-19 discussions and experiences have had a generational element and impact, from the devastating impact of pandemic on the older generation, especially in care homes, to university students self-isolating in their halls of residence and undergoing a mass testing before returning to their families for Christmas.  The pandemic seems to have highlighted pre-existing narratives about intergenerational differences – on one side, baby boomers who, we are told, benefited from the post-war economic boom, in the process getting richer and more conservative politically, and, on the other side, millennials, often described as technology savvy and individualistic, political ‘snowflakes’, experiencing an adulthood of precarious employment and housing.

While the media caricatures of different generations are often extreme, researchers and scientists have a lot to say about intergenerational dynamic in all areas of life, from the attitudes to climate change, to the changes in social mobility, and the changing employment and economic prospects.

The British Library and Alan Turing Institute latest Data Debate will explore different aspects of intergenerational differences and what data and research tell us about these differences and their implications for our future.

On this occasion, our panel will include:

Dr Jennie Bristow is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University, an Associate of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, and a writer and commentator on the ‘generation wars’. Her recent books include: The Corona Generation: Coming of age in a crisis (with Emma Gilland, Zero Books 2020); Generational Encounters with Higher Education: The Academic–Student Relationship and the University Experience (with Sarah Cant and Anwesa Chatterjee, Bristol University Press 2020); Stop Mugging Grandma: The ‘generation wars’ and why Boomer blaming won’t solve anything (Yale University Press 2019); and The Sociology of Generations: New directions and challenges (Palgrave Macmillan 2016).

Mr Angus Hanton is a Co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, a vehemently independent and non-party-political think tank that focuses on intergenerational fairness in the UK. A self-confessed baby boomer and economist, Hanton believes that successive governments have unwittingly overseen the transfer of assets, benefits and resources to older generations, whilst passing increasingly unsustainable liabilities to younger and future people.

Dr Florian Hertel studies the causes and effects of social inequality in post-industrial societies. Specifically, he is interested in understanding what drives social mobility trends and international variation in intergenerational mobility. He currently works with the Department of Socioeconomics at the University of Hamburg and was visiting Professor of Sociology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Florian published his work in the American Sociological Review, Social Forces and Research in Stratification and Social Mobility. Last summer, his recent work on social mobility and inequality was awarded the RC28’s Significant Scholarship Award.

Professor Ganna Pogrebna is a decision theorist, behavioural scientist and a Turing Fellow. Before joining The Alan Turing Institute, she worked at the University of Innsbruck (Austria), the University of Bonn (Germany), Humboldt- Universität zu Berlin (Germany), University of Sheffield (UK), and Columbia University in New York (USA). She is currently a Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Birmingham and a Research Fellow at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick.

Dr Tracey Skillington is Director of the BA (Sociology) in the Department of Sociology & Criminology, University College Cork. She is the author of two monographs on global climate change, Climate Justice and Human Rights (2017, Palgrave) and Climate Change and Intergenerational Justice (2019, Routledge), exploring the justice dimensions of largescale ecological destruction. She is currently a partner in an EU Horizon funded project on Arctic justice and sustainable development (JUSTNORTH, 2020-23). On the issue of data, her research points to the invaluable contribution of data to understanding the nature and extent of the ecological risks we face.

Mr David Sturrock is a Senior Research Economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. His recent work has looked at the savings and wealth holdings of different generations and the impact of inheritances on inequality. David is currently undertaking a multi-year project investigating the impact of rising house prices on inequalities across and within generations and the role of wealth transfers in social mobility. Previously, David was a policy advisor and economist at HM Treasury, working on fiscal policy, spending strategy and the economics of Scottish independence.

The Rt Hon Lord David Willetts FRS is the President of the Resolution Foundation and chaired their Intergenerational Commission. He served as the Member of Parliament for Havant (1992-2015), as Minister for Universities and Science (2010-2014) and previously worked at HM Treasury and the No.10 Policy Unit. Last year he published a second edition of his book The Pinch How the Baby Boomers took their children’\s future - and why they should give it back. He is a member of the Board of UKRI.

The event will be chaired by writer and broadcaster Timandra Harkness. Timandra presents BBC Radio 4 series, FutureProofing and has presented the documentaries, Data, Data Everywhere, Personality Politics & The Singularity.

The online event takes place on 10 December 2020 at 5.30pm. Bookings for this event are now open.

06 November 2020

Data Debates: Bots in the Polling Booth

Is AI helping or hindering democracy?

Data debate 2

Over the last few years, we have seen a range of concerns about the impact of new technologies on democratic process, especially in terms of the impact of online propaganda and misinformation on a rise of populism. There is a worry that the ways of influencing voters of all political persuasions are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and especially that we do not sufficiently understand the role that AI plays in affecting democracy both for good and bad. Or, are we overstating the role that AI plays in societal and political changes of our time? What are the opportunities to improve and better safeguard democracy? Moreover, what is the role of governments, tech giants, and citizens in making sense of the role of AI in the future of democracy?

The Alan Turing Institute and the British Library Data Debate is open to all who wish to engage with these questions. You can join us for a live online discussion on 10 November 2020 at 5.30pm. 

Writer and broadcaster Timandra Harkness will chair the debate. Timandra presents BBC Radio 4 series, FutureProofing and has presented the documentaries, Data, Data Everywhere, Personality Politics & The Singularity.

Data debate 1

From a previous Data Debate chaired by Timandra at the British Library

Our panel of experts include:

Dr Kate Dommett is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield. Her research focuses on digital campaigning, political parties, data and democracy. Dr Dommett has recently served as Special Advisor to the House of Lords Committee on Democracy and Digital Technology. She was awarded the 2020 Richard Rose Prize by the Political Studies Association for an early-career scholar who has made a distinctive contribution to British politics. Her Book, The Reimagined Party was published in 2020.

Dr Paolo Gerbaudo is a sociologist and political theorist. He is senior lecturer at King's College London where he directs the Centre for Digital Culture. He is the author of Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism (2012), The Mask and the Flag: Populism, Citizenism and Global Protest (2017), The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy (2019). He is currently completing a book on politics after populism and pandemic titled The Great Recoil.

Dr Jonathan Hopkin is Professor of Comparative Politics in the Department of Government and European Institute at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Anti-System Politics: The Crisis of Market Liberalism in Rich Democracies (2020, Oxford University Press). Previously he taught at the Universities of Bradford, Durham and Birmingham, and held visiting positions at Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, the University of Bologna, and the Autonomous University of Barcelona.  He has published widely on the party politics and political economy of Europe in journals such as the British Journal of Sociology, European Journal of Political Research, Governance, Journal of European Public Policy, New Political Economy, the Review of International Political Economy, Party Politics, Politics and Society and West European Politics.

Professor Helen Margetts is a Turing Fellow and Director of the Public Policy Programme at The Alan Turing Institute, and Professor of Society and the Internet at the University of Oxford and Professorial Fellow of Mansfield College. From 2011 to 2018, she was Director of the Oxford Internet Institute, a multi-disciplinary department of the University of Oxford dedicated to understanding the relationship between the Internet and society, before which she was UCL's first professor of Political Science and Director of the School of Public Policy (1999-2004). After an undergraduate degree in Mathematics, she worked as a computer programmer and systems analyst for Rank Xerox and Amoco before returning to study political science at LSE (MSc 1990, PhD 1996), where she also worked as a researcher.

Professor Nishanth Sastry is Joint Head of the Distributed and Networked Systems Group at Department of Computer Science, University of Surrey. He is also a Visiting Researcher at The Alan Turing Institute, where he is a co-lead of the Social Data Science Special Interest Group.

Data Debates is a collaboration between The Alan Turing Institute and the British Library and aims to stimulate discussion on issues surrounding big data, its potential uses, and its implications for society.

Registrations are now open.

Join the conversation #TheDataDebates