Cohen R. Simpson

Succinctly put, I am a network scientist and analytical sociologist interested in the role of multiplexity in social systems, social movements as social networks and computational approaches to social inquiry. Methodologically, my interests lie with stochastic models of networks and their utility in untangling puzzles of emergence in systems.

Prior to coming to the LSE I completed my MSc in Social Science of the Internet at the Oxford Internet Institute| (St. Cross College, University of Oxford) as a Clarendon Scholar|. I received my BA in Communication Studies from Clemson University|. For the month of September 2013 I had the distinct pleasure of being a visiting student at the MIT Media Lab|  (Human Dynamics) to learn more about models of networks and the advances in mining digital traces, online and off.

General Research Interests
Social Network Analysis; Statistical Models of Networks
Multiplexity; Network Closure (Particular the variety driven by localised structural equivalence)

Social Movement Studies
Alliances/Coalition Building
Social Movements as Networks; Ecological/Organisational Studies approaches to Social Movements
The Utility of Computational Studies of Movements

New Technologies/New Media
The Mining of Digital Traces; Reality Mining
Hyperlink Networks

Doctoral Research
Thesis Title: "Intra-Movement Processes: Stochastic Studies On The Network Dynamics of Social Movement Organisational Fields"
Supervisor: Dr Benjamin Lauderdale|

My doctoral research takes the form of a three studies on the largely unexplored network dynamics of populations of social movement organisations (SMOs), those groups with goals aimed at changing society. This research if funded with the support of an LSE PhD Scholarship.

Strategic Alliances and the Superposition of Relations in Social Movement Organisational Fields (Study I): While scholarship on social movements has embraced the notion of movements as networks, there has been little empirical exploration of the dynamics of alliance formation within what are fundamentally multilayered systems. Here I explore the role of overlapping relations in alliance formation among a group of 55 health-related, institutionalised UK social movement organisations (SMOs) mobilised against austerity. Using cross-sectional bivariate exponential random graph models, I find dependencies between digital proxies for alliance, shared allies, information exchange, positive nomination and offline co-lobbying activity at the dyadic, degree and triadic levels. Cross-network associations indicate that multiplexity plays a non-trivial role in the formation of alliances and, more generally, social movement organisational fields, requiring increased attention from movement scholars.

Patronage As Process: The Network Dynamics of Financial Derivation in Social Movement Organisational Fields (Study II): Scholarship on patronage, the allocation of grants to SMOs by foundations, has largely positioned it as an independent variable and used it to explore how the allocation of money by elites co-opts social change organisations and/or contributes to their institutionalisation. Problematically, this scholarship has black-boxed the act of grant giving leaving patronage, as a dependent variable, understudied. Furthermore, this work is characterised by an implicit assumption that the only attendant concerns in the allocation of funds are (in)congruence in interest between foundation and SMO and the degree to which an SMO supports more or less mainstream initiatives. Starting from the premise that organisational fields are systems of competition and cooperation between actors with somewhat similar interest, I argue that patronage is more appropriately conceptualised as a dynamic bipartite network between foundations and SMOs whereby: (a) foundations invest in SMOs by creating financial ties to maximise their utility and; (b) individual SMOs possess differing abilities to compete for financial resources based on both their structural position and individual organisational attributes. Using Stochastic Actor-Oriented Models, a type of agent-based model used to make statistical inferences about network structure, I explore how various endogenous network processes and the attributes of individual SMOs, such as financial efficiency and stability, contribute to the creation and maintenance of financial ties between foundations and SMOs. Data comes from eight years of grant giving by 139 foundations to 98 SMOs mobilised against climate-science between 2003-2010 in the United States.

Study III: TBD

Other Projects
“How do Networks Matter in Sovereign Default?: Public Debt and Political Survival since the Napoleonic Wars” with Dr. Jeffrey Chwieroth| (LSE) and Professor Andrew Walter|  (University of Melbourne): Sovereign debt crises are often seen as especially costly for incumbent governments because they explicitly break promises to repay creditors and tend to produce larger economic costs than other varieties of financial crisis. Yet existing analyses of government survival in the aftermath of debt crises often overlook the influence of time-dependent processes, and, more importantly, the network environment in which country defaults are situated. Accordingly, we develop a dynamic network explanation of how voters judge sovereign defaults and argue that the political costs of default depend in part on the prevalence of default within a country’s evolving network of ties. This conditional effect reflects not only economic consequences but also the impact of network-centric norms regarding the legitimacy of default. We employ Stochastic-Actor Oriented Models using relational data (e.g., bilateral trade, diplomatic relations and joint IGO participation) for 196 countries between 1800-2012.

"Ayatollahs Online" with Dr. Morgan Clarke| (University of Oxford): An investigation what ways, if any, the notion of scholarly ranking may describe the use of the Internet by Grand Ayatollahs in contemporary Islamic Society. Specifically it asks, do higher "ranking" Ayatollahs with more resources have better web presence and make more extensive use of their web pages? The goals of this work, supported by the generous support of Keble College, Oxford are to (a) gains a sense of the degree to which individual Ayatollahs and the group as a whole are visible on the web; and (b) develop a taxonomy of website use along the lines of what sorts of information Marja' make available on their web pages and what features they make use of in regard to the technological affordances of the platform, i.e. are web pages "badly" designed with sparse content or do they exemplify some "maximization" of potential in that they are interactive and engaging?

Policy Work
Dutton, William H., Jirotka, Marina, Meyer, Eric T., Schroeder, Ralph & Simpson, Cohen R. (May 31, 2012). Key Issues for Digital Research: A Social Science Perspective on Policy and Practice. A Forum Discussion Paper for the Oxford e-Social Science Project of the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford e-Research Centre, and the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

Preferred Methods and Models
Exponential Random Graph Models
Stochastic Actor-Orriented Models
Autologistic Actor Attribute Models

Network Autocorrelation
Generalised Additive Models
Bayesian Inference

Quantitative Content Analysis

Programming Languages
Python; R





Twitter: @cohens|

Skype: cohansolo