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University of Copenhagen
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Are you into big data? You can now do a master’s degree in social data science

New master’s — Our behaviour on the internet and on phones can say something about our social relationships, and this is the subject of a new degree programme at the University of Copenhagen.

Starting September 2020, University of Copenhagen (UCPH) students can specialise in social analyses based on big data. A brand new master’s degree programme is opening at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

The programme is known as Social Data Science and combines the core academics of social science with knowledge of the methodology and analysis of big data. A term which covers the huge amount of data traces that we leave behind when move around the net, for example in job advertisements, Facebook and Twitter posts, and in location information stored in mobile apps..

Studies based on data that we have not previously had access to, can give us insight into social relations, says Andreas de Neergaard, who is associate dean at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

“If you want to know something about the exercise activity of school children, you can go to one of the countless apps they have on their phones, and buy access to their locations. This is how you can identify how all Danes move around,” he says.

Only your imagination limits what it is that you can study

Andreas de Neergaard, associate dean for education, Faculty of Social Sciences.

In the same way, investigations into big data can say something about how political discussions develop and unfold in newspapers and on the web, because we now have greater access to ordinary citizens’ opinions.

Data analysis can be used to, say, give alerts to bipolar or depressive people. Their mobile phones can via voice recognition and activity patterns be programmed to recognise behaviour that signals an upcoming depression.

Only your imagination limits what it is that you can study,” says Andreas de Neergaard.

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Courses in social science are not completely new to UCPH. In august 2018 it held the summer course “Introduction to Social Data Science,” with 120 students being introduced to the subject over three weeks.

One of the participants was economics student Pernille Birch. She explains that social data science introduces you to a new way of getting hold of information that is relevant if you want to work with data collection. Social data science, for example, can compare prices on the net.

“In our exam project we examined the price difference between Airbnb and misterb&b (a room rental site for gay men, ed.) by writing a code that retrieved specific information about each individual apartment unit or xxx,” says Pernille Birch.

Permission for English-language teaching

Despite the government’s recent reduction of English-language programmes in an attempt to save money on student grants for foreigners, the upcoming master’s degree in social data science will be in English.

“The teaching is in English, because a large proportion of the employers have English as a corporate language. In addition, we would like to be able to draw on foreign experts in the teaching,” says associate dean Andreas de Neergaard.

The Department of Computer Science and the Faculty of Law has contributed to the development of the new programme, which is mainly intended for students with a social science bachelor in political science, psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics, or other equivalent bachelor programme.

Read more about Social Data Science on the UCPH website.