I obtained a PhD in database information theory from the University of the West of Scotland in 2015, and have been a researcher at the James Hutton Institute ever since. My areas of research are agent-based-modelling (ABM), data curation, effective use of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and semantic information representation and extraction using formal structures such as computerised ontologies, relational databases and any other structured or semi-structured data representations. I primarily deal with social and agricultural models and was originally taken on in the role of knowledge engineer in order to create the ontology for the H2020 project, Green Lifestyles, Alternative Models and Upscaling Regional Sustainability (GLAMURS). Subsequent work, for the Scottish Government has involved the use of IaaS, more commonly referred to as the “cloud” to create rapidly deployable and cheap alternatives to in-house high-performance computing for both ABM and Geographical Information System models.
It is the mixture of skills and interests involving modelling, data organisation and computing infrastructure expertise that I believe will be highly apposite in the duties associated with being a member of the CoMSES executive. Moreover, prior to joining academia, I spent about 25 years as a developer in commercial IT, in the agricultural, entertainment and banking sectors, and feel that such practical experience can only benefit the CoMSES network.
Primate evolutionary biologist and geneticist at the University of Texas at Austin
I conduct long-term behavioral and ecological field research on several species in the primate community of Amazonian Ecuador to investigate the ways in which ecological conditions (such as the abundance and distribution of food resources) and the strategies of conspecifics together shape primate behavior and social relationships and ultimately determine the kinds of societies we see primates living in. This is a crucial and central focus in evolutionary anthropology, as understanding the ways in which behavior and social systems are shaped by environmental pressures is a fundamental part of the discipline.
I complement my field studies with molecular genetic laboratory work and agent-based simulation modeling in order to address issues that are typically difficult to explore through observational studies alone, including questions about dispersal behavior, gene flow, mating patterns, population structure, and the fitness consequences of individual behavior. In collaboration with colleagues, I have also started using molecular techniques to investigate a number of broader questions concerning the evolutionary history, social systems, and ecological roles of various New World primates.
I am a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Previously, I worked for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System as an internal consultant on statistical computing. I have also been a consultant to numerous government agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Executive Office of the President, and the United States Department of Homeland Security. I am a passionate educator, teaching mathematics and statistics at the University of Maryland University College since 2010 and have taught public management at Central Michigan University, Penn State, and the University of Baltimore.
I am fortunate to play in everyone else’s backyard. My most recent published scholarship has modeled the population of Earth-orbiting satellites, analyzed the risks of flood insurance, predicted disruptive events, and sought to understand small business cybersecurity. I have written two books on my work and am currently co-editing two more.
In my spare time, I serve Howard County, Maryland, as a member of the Board of Appeals and the Watershed Stewards Academy Advisory Committee of the University of Maryland Extension. Prior volunteer experience includes providing economic advice to the Columbia Association, establishing an alumni association for the College Park Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, and serving on numerous public and private volunteer advisory boards.
Two themes unite my research: a commitment to methodological creativity and innovation as expressed in my work with computational social sciences, and an interest in the political economy of “globalization,” particularly its implications for the ontological claims of international relations theory.
I have demonstrated how the methods of computational social sciences can model bargaining and social choice problems for which traditional game theory has found only indeterminate and multiple equilibria. My June 2008 article in International Studies Quarterly (“Coordination in Large Numbers,” vol. 52, no. 2) illustrates that, contrary to the expectation of collective action theory, large groups may enjoy informational advantages that allow players with incomplete information to solve difficult three-choice coordination games. I extend this analysis in my 2009 paper at the International Studies Association annual convention, in which I apply ideas from evolutionary game theory to model learning processes among players faced with coordination and commitment problems. Currently I am extending this research to include social network theory as a means of modeling explicitly the patterns of interaction in large-n (i.e. greater than two) player coordination and cooperation games. I argue in my paper at the 2009 American Political Science Association annual convention that computational social science—the synthesis of agent-based modeling, social network analysis and evolutionary game theory—empowers scholars to analyze a broad range of previously indeterminate bargaining problems. I also argue this synthesis gives researchers purchase on two of the central debates in international political economy scholarship. By modeling explicitly processes of preference formation, computational social science moves beyond the rational actor model and endogenizes the processes of learning that constructivists have identified as essential to understanding change in the international system. This focus on the micro foundations of international political economy in turn allows researchers to understand how social structural features emerge and constrain actor choices. Computational social science thus allows IPE to formalize and generalize our understandings of mutual constitution and systemic change, an observation that explains the paradoxical interest of constructivists like Ian Lustick and Matthew Hoffmann in the formal methods of computational social science. Currently I am writing a manuscript that develops these ideas and applies them to several challenges of globalization: developing institutions to manage common pool resources; reforming capital adequacy standards for banks; and understanding cascading failures in global networks.
While computational social science increasingly informs my research, I have also contributed to debates about the epistemological claims of computational social science. My chapter with James N. Rosenau in Complexity in World Politics (ed. by Neil E. Harrison, SUNY Press 2006) argues that agent-based modeling suffers from underdeveloped and hidden epistemological and ontological commitments. On a more light-hearted note, my article in PS: Political Science and Politics (“Clocks, Not Dartboards,” vol. 39, no. 3, July 2006) discusses problems with pseudo-random number generators and illustrates how they can surprise unsuspecting teachers and researchers.