School of Information Sciences


iSchool Professor’s Research Published in the Wall Street Journal

Yu-Ru LinInteresting research by Yu-Ru Lin from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences was recently highlighted by the Wall Street Journal. Lin collaborated with an interdisciplinary team of fellow researchers to examine how tracking daily cell phone usage can reveal “socially beneficial real-time economic statistics.”

The group worked together to analyze millions of call detail records taken from an unnamed European country from 2006 to 2007. During this time, an auto-parts plant that employed over 1,000 people closed, laying off its workers.

Lin and the team of researches were able to pinpoint the exact day the layoffs occurred by examining cell phone usage. The call detail records showed a sharp drop-off of cell phone activity originating from the cell tower near the auto-parts plant. This indicated that the large workforce, who usually used their cell phones while at the plant, was no longer there.

Because of this, the research team could then track the usage of the recently laid off individuals to identify strong trends in behavior within the months directly following. This pattern was so clear that Lin and the team were able to apply it to larger data sets and predict broader changes in the unemployment rate weeks before the government released its own surveys.

While this study by Lin and her fellow researchers is just a proof of concept, it does show how trends in call detail records could be used to see, in close to real-time, when major layoffs occur. It also offers a good indication of the behavior that the unemployed will most likely adopt directly afterward. The trends uncovered by Lin and the team allow for more accurate predictions of future economic statistics. Read more >

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SIS Faculty and students are leaders in the Information Professions. Their research, teaching, and projects are often newsworthy.