Björn Ross awarded the Stafford Beer Medal for Best Paper in EJIS in 2019

[2020] Lecturer in Computational Social Science Björn Ross has been awarded the prestigious Stafford Beer Medal for best paper published in the European Journal of Information Systems (EJIS) in 2019.

Photo of Björn Ross
Björn Ross


The winning paper is titled 'Are social bots a real threat? An agent-based model of the spiral of silence to analyse the impact of manipulative actors in social networks' and is co-authored by Laura Pilz, Benjamin Cabrera, Florian Brachten, German Neubaum and Stefan Stieglitz. The research was conducted at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, where all co-authors were based at the time of publication and where Björn completed his PhD before joining the School of Informatics in July 2020.

The paper discusses the impact of social bots in influencing public opinion expressed on social media. There has been a lot of research on detecting bots lately, and on estimating the number of bots that were present in specific political discussions, but they are often somewhat vague about specifically how bots are thought to influence people. This paper therefore uses social science theory to explore a mechanism for how bots could actually influence public opinion. The theory shows why it is problematic when people get the false impression that an opinion is more popular than it actually is. It then uses computational methods to examine the conditions under which this is likely to happen.

Winning the award has been an immense honour for us, and winning it for this paper means especially much to me. This was an interdisciplinary collaboration between people working in information systems, theoretical computer science, and social psychology, and to be honest, working across disciplines like this to examine a question that is relevant for all of us was a lot of fun. I am delighted to have joined the School of Informatics this year, where I will continue to apply computational methods to research social interactions.

Björn Ross
Lecturer in Computational Social Science, co-author of the winning paper

The Stafford Beer Medal

The Stafford Beer Medal is awarded by The Operational Research (OR) Society in recognition of the most outstanding contribution to the philosophy, theory or practice of Information Systems published in the EJIS within the relevant year. The award is named in memory of Stafford Beer, a world leader in the development of systems ideas, especially management cybernetics, and President of The OR Society 1970-71.

The Medal is presented at the annual Blackett Memorial Lecture, a forum for leading industry figures to share the latest news in the areas of analytics, data science and artificial intelligence. The Blackett Lecture is named in honour of Patrick Blackett: physicist, Nobel Prize winner, one-time president of the Royal Society and one of the pioneers of Operational Research durng the Second World War. The event would usually take place at the Royal Society in London, however this year due to Covid-19 it was delivered over Zoom.

Related Links

The Stafford Beer Medal

Read the winning paper (Taylor & Francis Online)

Björn Ross's personal page