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Creators/Authors contains: "Kindel, Alexander T."

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  1. Abstract

    The massive expansion of US higher education after World War II is a sociological puzzle: a spectacular feat of state capacity-building in a highly federated polity. Prior scholarship names academic leaders as key drivers of this expansion, yet the conditions for the possibility and fate of their activity remain under-specified. We fill this gap by theorizing what Randall Collins first callededucational entrepreneurshipas a special kind of strategic action in the US polity. We argue that the cultural authority and organizational centrality of universities in the US national context combine with historical contingency to episodically produce conditions under which academic credentials can be made viable solutions to social problems. We put our theorization to the test by revisiting and extending a paradigmatic case: the expansion of engineering education at Stanford University between 1945 and 1969. Invoking several contemporaneous and subsequent cases, we demonstrate the promise of theorizing educational expansion as an outcome of strategic action by specifically located actors over time.

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  2. The Fragile Families Challenge is a scientific mass collaboration designed to measure and understand the predictability of life trajectories. Participants in the Challenge created predictive models of six life outcomes using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a high-quality birth cohort study. This Special Collection includes 12 articles describing participants’ approaches to predicting these six outcomes as well as 3 articles describing methodological and procedural insights from running the Challenge. This introduction will help readers interpret the individual articles and help researchers interested in running future projects similar to the Fragile Families Challenge. 
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  3. Researchers rely on metadata systems to prepare data for analysis. As the complexity of data sets increases and the breadth of data analysis practices grow, existing metadata systems can limit the efficiency and quality of data preparation. This article describes the redesign of a metadata system supporting the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study on the basis of the experiences of participants in the Fragile Families Challenge. The authors demonstrate how treating metadata as data (i.e., releasing comprehensive information about variables in a format amenable to both automated and manual processing) can make the task of data preparation less arduous and less error prone for all types of data analysis. The authors hope that their work will facilitate new applications of machine-learning methods to longitudinal surveys and inspire research on data preparation in the social sciences. The authors have open-sourced the tools they created so that others can use and improve them. 
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  4. Any large dataset can be analyzed in a number of ways, and it is possible that the use of different analysis strategies will lead to different results and conclusions. One way to assess whether the results obtained depend on the analysis strategy chosen is to employ multiple analysts and leave each of them free to follow their own approach. Here, we present consensus-based guidance for conducting and reporting such multi-analyst studies, and we discuss how broader adoption of the multi-analyst approach has the potential to strengthen the robustness of results and conclusions obtained from analyses of datasets in basic and applied research. 
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  5. How predictable are life trajectories? We investigated this question with a scientific mass collaboration using the common task method; 160 teams built predictive models for six life outcomes using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a high-quality birth cohort study. Despite using a rich dataset and applying machine-learning methods optimized for prediction, the best predictions were not very accurate and were only slightly better than those from a simple benchmark model. Within each outcome, prediction error was strongly associated with the family being predicted and weakly associated with the technique used to generate the prediction. Overall, these results suggest practical limits to the predictability of life outcomes in some settings and illustrate the value of mass collaborations in the social sciences. 
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