Joseph A.E. Shaheen
Currently, I am an ORISE Intelligence Community Postdoc Fellow supporting the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center. I was recently co-located with the faculty of the Department of Computational and Data Sciences at George Mason University. I earned my doctorate in Computational Social Science from George Mason University (GMU) with a dissertation on economic policy and population-scale data analysis of Internal Revenue Service records. I studied the population of U.S. firms from a mathematical perspective inspired from the study of vertebrate biological communities or biological societies in general – survival analysis mainly.
While it seems like I’m only getting started along the academic career path, that would actually be a misleading assumption. I was accepted to university at age 15 and I earned my undergraduate degree in Engineering: Physics at age 19. I have roughly 15 years of professional and academic experience in diverse domains if you count from my graduation date to 2021. Academia is my third career, not my first. I’m simply starting from the bottom just like all of my colleagues, but with the clear difference in that while we are often the same age, I’ve already had the benefit of broad experience in government and industry.
In 2015, I was selected for a U.S. State Department-funded assignment with the NATO STRATCOM Centre of Excellence where I conducted large scale analysis of social media data and I provided policy recommendations in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Since then I have been a formal or informal advisor to various organizations on Information and Social Media Warfare–a term closely associated with my 2015 NATO report.
My basic training was with many world-renowned leaders in Social Network Analysis, Network Science, Complex Systems, and Agent-based Modeling. Exposure to great ideas through them has really helped shape my natural intellectual instinct and helped me create a unique and independent research platform. I wasn’t “raised” by a single top academic but by several. This has its own advantages and disadvantages. I like to focus on the advantages – the most important of which is that I get to be a jack-of-all-trades.
Towards informing the public I’ve appeared on CNN HLN, FOX NEWS, NBC News, Entrepreneur Magazine and I’ve been invited to participate in the 2021 Heidelberg Laureate Forum (Heidelberg, Germany) where I will collaborate with fellow scholars of the mathematical and computer sciences as well as Fields Medal, Abel Prize, Turing Award, and Nevanlinna prize winners.
- Agent-based Modeling
- Machine Learning
- Network Science
- Network Simulation
- Social Network Analysis
- System Dynamics
In the Press
Meet Dr. Joseph Shaheen, an Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellow with the National Counterterrorism Center and…Posted by Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Meet Dr. Joseph Shaheen, an IC PostDoc fellow with NCTC, and resident at @GeorgeMasonU, who works in the field of Computational Social Science and studies social networks from a national security perspective. pic.twitter.com/MtQJtJfA7o
— Office of the DNI (@ODNIgov) September 30, 2020
TV & Broadcast
Print & Online
My general research theme can be summarized as being at the intersection of the social and computer sciences, the qualitative and the quantitative, the individual and the system, the micro and the macro, the deterministic and the stochastic. Those are not equivalent themes, of course, but I find the tension between two competing forces to almost always be of interest.
Interestingly, career-wise I’ve chosen a line of research that represents the intersecting areas between two fields, namely agent-based simulations and social network analysis (including its descendant, network science).
Within that intersection I find problems that intersect the natural/physical science view often represented by network science (complex networks) and the classical view – social network analysis (broadly speaking constructed by computational sociologists et. al.) – to be of interest. In layman terms, I enjoy understanding the node and I enjoy knowing more about the experience of that node under certain system-level conditions. Most importantly, the interplay between them is of significant interest to me.
In terms of domain specialty lean much more towards public policy in two main areas, economic and taxation policy, defense and security policy. I often ask the question: how will the data, method, assumptions and encompassing analysis translate into particular policies or interventions. In the past I’ve applied that to a few areas and in the works are several more, but it looks like my natural tendencies are towards policy testing as field rather than having a domain-specific research direction.
If you’d like to see a full accounting of active and past papers papers and presentations, I’d recommend you connect with me on academia.edu or researchgate.net. You can also grab a quick look at my Orcid record.
Data Science + Data Aggregation = Methodology
Shaheen, J. A. E. (2019). Emerging the U.S. Firm Size Distribution Using 4.2 Billion Individual Tax Records. 12th International RAIS Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities, 74–82. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.2650983
Geographic Information Systems + Agent-based Modeling = Optimization
This is an area of recent interest. It began when I decided to model a ride sharing service (Uber or Lyft) in the Washington, DC area, and began to like the process of modeling GIS systems. There’s some interesting work being done in this area, mainly in the autonomous vehicle area, so I plan to continue my work in this area.
Shaheen, J. A. E. (2018). Simulating the Ridesharing Economy: The Individual Agent Metro-Washington Area Ridesharing Model. Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/1802.07280
Terrorism and Extremism + Social Network Analysis + Network Science = Threat Management
Shaheen, J. A. E. (2016). Reproduction of a Social Media Network Using an Agent-based Model: The Case of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. International Network for Social Network Analysis First North American Network Conference, 1–17. Washington, DC.
Shaheen, J. A. E. (2015). Network of Terror: How Daesh Uses Adaptive Social Networks To Spread its Message. In NATO Stratcom Centre of Excellence (Vol. 1). Retrieved from https://www.stratcomcoe.org/network-terror-how-daesh-uses-adaptive-social-networks-spread-its-message
Firms as Biological Creatures + Statistical Models = Complex Adaptive Systems
Shaheen, J. A. E. (2019). Data Explorations in Firm Dynamics: Firm Birth, Life, & Death Through Age, Wage, Size & Labor. George Mason University.
Speaking & Conferences
Targeting in Networks: A Complex Problem, 3rd North American Social Networks Conference, 01/2021. Slides: doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.14110355
Towards a Principled, Computational, and Risk-based Perspective in Dark Networks, Intelligence Community Academic Research Symposium & National Academies of Sciences, 10/2020; Slides: doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.14110310
An Empirical Method for Evaluating the Robustness of Centrality Methods: The Case of Dark Networks, Intelligence Community Academic Research Symposium & National Academies of Sciences, 10/2019. Slides: doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.14110292
Target Policy-making Under the Frame of Dark Networks: Strengths, Weaknesses, & Opportunities, The Conference on Politics & Computational Social Science of the American Political Science Association, 09/2019; Slides: doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.14110277
Computational Social Science in “Science” and “Nature”: A Meta Analysis, International Network of Social Network Analysis XXXIX Sunbelt Social Networks Conference, 05/2019; Slides: doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.14109758
Emerging the U.S. Firm Size Distribution Using 4.2 Billion Individual Tax Records, 12th International RAIS Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities, 2019; Paper: doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3387584
Challenges of Growing Social Media Networks From the Bottom-Up Through the Agent Perspective, Proceedings of the Annual Simulation Symposium, Society for Computer Simulation International, 04/2018, Slides: doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.14109722
Latvian Transatlantic Organization, 07/2017, Media Platforms in the Hands of Extremists
National Defense University, CISA, 03-2017, Narratives and the Rule of Law
USA Special Operations Futures Forum, 02-2017, Social Media Warfare: A Framework for analysis, Simulation & a Path for Affecting Narrative Through Micro-PSYOPS
National Defense University, CISA, 01-2017, Narrative Modeling of Extremism on Social Media
Strategic Multi-layer Threat Assessment Group (SMA), Pentagon, 12-2016, ISIS & Self Organizing Networks
NATO Defence Against Terrorism COE, 11-2016, DAESH’s Use of Social Media: Effective Use of Self Organizing Networks
International Congress on Agent Computing, 11-2016, Modeling Extremism on Social Media Networks
CyberSci 2016, Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis of a Social Media Propaganda Network: The Case of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh
Office of the Marine Corps. Communications, 2016 Communications Symposium, 06/2016 ” Lessons from Terror Propaganda on Social Media”
NATO STRATCOM COE, Perception Matters NATO Conference, 08/2015, “How ISIS/ISIL/Daesh Uses Adaptive Networks to Spread its Propaganda”
CSHRM, 01/2015, “HR Metrics For Organizational Life”
Vocus Demand Success, (attended)
SNA Links, UK (attended)
The Network Round Table (attended)
Skill Survey, 02/2013, Webinar, “Paying Attention to Social Structure: The Key to Effective Employee Communication”
Georgetown University, 12/2012, School of Continuing Studies, Workshop, “Social Network Analysis”
NOVA SHRM, 2012, “Understanding Culture and the Environment: The Key to International Talent”
Environmental Justice Conference 2012, Moderator, “Entrepreneurial Jobs in the New Economy”
Lado International College, Executive Round Table, “Collaborative Leadership”
NOVA SHRM, 2011, Panelist, “Organizational Culture Panel”
ERE Expo 2012, Workshop, “The Talent Management of Recruiting Professionals”
Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business, Talent Round Table, 2012, “Using Social Network Analysis to Affect Organizational Change”
ERE Expo 2011, Workshop, “Quantitative Bias in the Talent Acquisition Process”
ERE Expo 2011, Keynote, “From Pharaohs to Revolutions: A Vision for Talent”
*I do not list private events or my comprehensive schedule so feel free to reach out to me by contact form, email, or on social media.
Daesh – ISIS – ISIL: A Terror Group’s Social Media Network
In 2015, I conducted an analysis for NATO STRATCOM Center of Excellence on how Daesh disseminates propaganda online and how they make use of social media. The network showed here is of a sample drawn from a backcloth network (friend/follow) – the original network was made of roughly 160,000 nodes and roughly 500,000 edges, so it was very difficult to export to a web. Therefore, a sample of 3000 nodes and their edges were provided.
Political Analysis – The Obama-Ryan Debate
In 2012, the US presidential elections captured the essence of what big data and social media can do for business and political campaigns. They also provided incredible insight into how grass roots organizations manifest themselves on social media.
This particular network study was conducted on twitter, hashtag #Healthcare in October of 2012 – only 1 month before the general elections. I was lucky to have been able to collect all the data and not just a sample of it (as you know, since then the twitter api has changed allowing only a sample of the data to be collected for free.)
Earlier in the day, Paul Ryan (his twitter account), the vice presidential nominee for the republican party, tweeted a message using the hashtag healthcare. This was immediately retweeted by his direct followers, and prompted a response by Barack Obama (twitter account).
There are 3 interesting findings from this map and analysis:
The first is that because of Ryan’s only recent entry into the political campaign he was unable to get his message to spread much beyond his first degree followers. It could also mean that the RNC did not have an active campaign to integrate social media strategy that included Ryan’s twitter account. The second is that Obama’s social media strategy was much more developed because of his (campaign’s) ability to ensure that his messages were being actively retweeted to second, third, and even fourth degree followers, garnering much more attention and allowing for multiple imprints on the same followers.
Finally, and perhaps the most important learning, is that without utilizing sentiment/semantic analysis one can easily identify political leanings and affiliations through structural analysis alone, which makes this map some very tasty food for thought.
Choices & Demographics – The State Department’s Fulbright Program
The United States Fulbright program is an initiative designed to promote scholarly collaboration between American scientists and the rest of the world. Every year, US scholars of all ages, disciplines, and academic proficiency apply to this program, which is headed by the State Department in order to experience a sponsored/semi-sponsored international academic experience. Promoting positive relations, exchanging ideas, and expanding the mind of the scholar are only some of the goals that this program aims to achieve.
As expected of any highly competitive program, often times there are only a limited number of spots available for any given field, country, institution or some combination thereof. Therefore, the State Department’s administrative liaison, the IIE, would make suggestions for other countries within the same region of the applicant’s first choice. For example, if an applicant chooses Germany as their first choice, but all the spots available for Germany have been filled, then IIE would recommend France, or the UK.
My analysis helped to change this thinking.
Running a clustering analysis on the choices made by applicants can be classified as 2-mode network analysis, but it also represents 3 data modes: the number of choices made by applicants, academic institutions to which they belong, and country of choice.
The result was unexpected. Applicants that were tied together by similar clusters did not choose a country in the same region when the first region choice was rejected. In fact, we found clusters of countries to which applicants from certain institutions highly favored. This and other follow-up analysis allowed us to conclude that suggesting a country from the same region may not be the optimal solution.
Analyzing Gamer Choices – EVE Online, the World’s Most Popular MMO
Like everyone, sometimes I love combining several of my passions into one activity. I do it often when I snack and watch a movie, when I exercise and listen to music, and in this case when I analyze a massively multi-player online sandbox that I enjoy as a gamer.
This network analysis represents the structural design of space systems within the even universe. It lets any gamer not only see a clearer vision of the connections between systems, but also allows more efficient game decisions to be made.
The network map makes it easy for a fellow pilot to identify trade, battle, and transportation opportunities previously unseen without a solid graphical representation of the structural attributes of the game.
If you’d rather email me directly and would be open to risking your mail getting caught in my spam folder, you can feel free to email me at j o e s h a h e e n (at symbol) and then add the domain name of the most popular email service in the world (hint: starts with a g)