Thursday, June 19, 2008

nature and human studies

a recent publication in nature about human mobility caused a bit of a stir in the news

what surprised me was that apparently said paper passed the ethics committee in the authors' institution. the data was taken from a european cellular provider

1. the customers were'nt asked -t his makes it unethical
2. i asked uk and german and spanish legal folks they said this is also illegal in european law.
3. the data isnt avaialble to other people to validate, compare
4. not knowing which country it is make it petty hard to geenralise the mobility model (e.g. think greek islands versus spanish plains, versus alps:)
5. the paper appeared already in a slightly different form in the IOP Journal of Phys...
6 they dont seem to have done anythiong to control for factors that social scienctists would do like age group (think Virgin Mobile versus Vodafone - networks that cater mostly for kids or mostly for business users) people that turn off phones when traveling, or have 2 phones for home and work...

in general, I am a bit surprised at Nature for publishing the work - the math/analysis is cool, but the rest of it is doubtful, imho

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