CYGNA: Big Data in the Social Sciences

Reports on our 24th CYGNA meeting with expert introductions into big data in the social sciences and the gender aspects of artificial intelligence

The name CYGNA comes from the female version of the Greek word for SWAN (Supporting Women in Academia Network). The main objective of the group is to promote interaction among female academics based in the London area and to provide a forum for learning, support, and networking. We typically hold five meetings a year with a mix of presentations and informal discussions. We also maintain a readings and inspirations section for female academics and have a Twitter hashtag #cygna_london. If you’d like to join the CYGNA network, just drop me an email

24th meeting Imperial College London

Organised by Sarah Otner  Imperial College London

In January 2019 CYGNA members found themselves in inspiring Exhibition Road in South Kensington, the heart of the area that is nick-named Albertopolis, after Prince Albert, spouse of Queen Victoria. In addition to the three great musea - the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum - Exhibition Road also houses a very futuristic looking Imperial College campus. It looked even better at night when we left.

I really love our talented CYGNA crowd. This academic year (2018-2019) we decided we wanted to know a bit more about:

  • the challenges of internal versus external promotions, leading me to give a presentation on this in September at Middlesex University,
  • the use of MBTI typology to increase awareness of personality differences in our professional context, leading Veronique  Tran, one of our members based in France, to present: Understand your co-author(s) and yourself with MBTI in November at ESCP
  • the "next big thing" in research methods: Big Data, for which new CYGNA member Sarah Otner volunteered to give a presentation.

It was clear from our very well-attended meeting that many swans were interested in this. We had people coming from a wide range of London Universities, but also from Oxford, Surrey, Manchester and even Japan [well not specially for this meeting obviously, but she did plan her trip to accommodate it].

We were treated to a wonderful session with three brilliant presentations.

See also: Special Issue in Organizational Research Methods July 2018 on Big Data and Introduction to Big Data for Social Sciences (free 1-hour SAGE campus course).

International mobility and idenity

After a lovely finger-food dinner, we also had a good discussion about international mobility, including the practical and identity issues involved. In this context, you might find the work of one of my former PhD students of interest: Managing expatriates’ identity: subtle desire, big impact