Research Picks – May 2016

Unemployment – keep it out of the family

Italian research suggests that “weak” jobseekers – who are defined as migrants, women, and young people – are less likely to find employment if they have strong family ties. A multivariate analysis of a trainee’s individual social networks – family, friends and acquaintance – affects subsequent employment outcome, the team found. They suggest that public employment and training agencies could improve employability of “weak” groups by strengthening connections between different hubs so that job referrals and reputation come to the fore.

Lamonica, V., Ragazzi, E., Santanera, E. and Sella, L. (2016) ‘The role of personal networks in the labour insertion of weak jobseekers’, Int. J. Computational Economics and Econometrics, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.315–335.

Biological mining

Biology and medicine and their overlapping discipline, biomedical science, generate vast amounts of data on a daily basis, not least in the form of papers and reviews in the scientific literature. A powerful new literature mining tool, BioTopic, has now been developed and shown to have a search performance of 86% which is higher than conventional data mining techniques at retrieving pertinent information. Fine-grained pre-processing, topic modelling, and shallow parsing allow the tool to work quickly and accurately to find relevant papers. Mining of three topics “neuron”, “signalling pathway” and “apoptotic cell death” demonstrated proof of principle and highlight ways in which the system might be improved still further by generating a background word list and creating automated filtering rules.

Wang, X., Zhu, P., Liu, T. and Xu, K. (2016) ‘BioTopic: a topic-driven biological literature mining system’, Int. J. Data Mining and Bioinformatics, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.373–386.

Go by rail

Rail travel is on the increase and associated with such an increase is the risk of accidents given conditions remaining unchanged or issues left unresolved. One particularly vulnerable component of rail infrastructure is the tunnels. A new safety model shows what measures must be adopted to preclude critical situations arising that can lead to serious accidents, including preventative maintenance and corrective measures to reduce risk. Of course, risk can never be reduced to zero in any activity, but as rail travel grows, the statistics must be countered to minimise it.

De Felice, F., Petrillo, A. and Zomparelli, F. (2015) ‘Railway tunnels safety: analysis of critical reliability aspects’, Int. J. Decision Sciences, Risk and Management, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.103–127

Why the rich get richer

It’s a perennial concern of the poverty stricken – why is it that the rich get richer. Researchers in China suggest that this fact of life is down to mathematics, with wealth accumulation following a power law and thus generating asymmetries in society that lead to income and wealth distribution towards the haves and away from the have-nots. They found that wealth is more unequally distributed than income and that from a dynamical perspective revenues from financial investments are the key factor to sustaining wealth accumulation. “In other words, wealth-dependent asymmetries among agents lead to a rising inequality of income and wealth as the time goes on,” the researchers suggest.

Desiderio, S. and Chen, S. (2016) ‘Why the rich become richer: insights from an agent-based model’, Int. J. Computational Economics and Econometrics, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.258–275.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.