June 14 to June 26, 2020 | Maastricht University | Virtual event


In order to use our time together efficiently, there are a number of things that you should do before participating in SICSS-Maastricht 2020. TAs from SICSS-Duke will host office hours through Slack to support you as you work through these pre-arrival materials.


SICSS-Maastricht 2020 will be using a flipped classroom model where you will watch videos of lectures before our meetings, and then we will use our time together for discussion and group activities. We will mostly use lectures prepared by Matt and Chris. They will start posting some videos around May 15, 2020. If you’d like to have a sense of what these videos are like, you can watch Matt’s and Chris’ lectures from 2019.


The majority of the coding work presented at the 2020 SICSS will employ R. However, you are welcome to employ a language of your choice, such as Python, Julia, or other languages that are commonly used by computational social scientists. If you would like to work in R, we recommend that you complete the free RStudio Primers, which can be supplemented by the open access book R for Data Science by Garrett Grolemund and Hadley Wickham. RStudio Primers cover 6 topics: The Basics, Working with Data, Visualize Data, Tidy Your Data, Iterate, and Write Functions. If you already feel comfortable with these topics (either in R or some other language), then you do not need to complete these Primers.

If you would like more practice after completing the RStudio Primers, some other materials that we can recommend are:


The Summer Institute will bring together people from many fields, and therefore we think that asking you to do some reading before you arrive will help us use our time together more effectively. In order to prepare for SICSS, you should read Matt’s book, Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age (Read online or purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or Princeton University Press). Parts of this book, which is a broad introduction to computational social science, will be review for most of you, but if we all read this book ahead of time, then we can use our time together for more advanced topics.

Computing environment

Some of the activities will require coding, and we will support R. You are welcome to use other languages, but we cannot guarantee that we can support them.

Before SICSS you should install a modern, stable-release version of R and RStudio. We will soon post a list of packages that we recommend as well.

Zoom videoconferencing

We want to give you some videoconferencing information to make our meeting time go more smoothly. We will be using the videoconferencing software Zoom to facilitate small and large-group sessions during the first week of SICSS (see schedule). You can join Zoom meetings using a phone or computer with a microphone and (ideally) a webcam. See this tutorial for more information if you have not used Zoom before. This article contains some helpful advice on how to set up your device and space to improve your Zoom experience. (Note: though the article recommends external microphones and webcams, we DO NOT recommend or require you to purchase any equipment to participate in SICSS. In our experience, the microphones and webcams built into most modern laptops and phones are perfectly sufficient).


  • Slack: Before participating at SICSS-Maastricht 2020 you should have an account in the SICSS 2020 Slack workspace. If you have not used Slack before, you should review these [getting started[(] materials. Slack can be hard to use at first, but we’ve found that it is the best way to enable everyone to collaborate.

  • GitHub: Many participants at SICSS use GitHub to collaborate. If you do not yet have one, you should create a GitHub account. If you are a student, we recommend that you apply for a GitHub Student Developer Pack.

You may need to create accounts on other platforms as well. If so, we will post that information here.

Office hours

SICSS-Duke TAs will host weekly office hours in the SICSS 2020 Slack. You can find information about the office hours in the SICSS 2020 Slack channel #pre-office-hours.

If you are not able to attend during the regularly scheduled office hours or have any questions about office hours, please contact Robin Lee, one of our TAs.

Host a Location

You can host a partner location of the Summer Institutes of Computational Social Science (SICSS) at your university, company, NGO, or government agency.

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