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Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2012

Indiana University news tips from 2012 AAAS annual meeting

Feb. 17, 2012

A record 10 Indiana University faculty members will become fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the organization's 2012 annual meeting, taking place this weekend in Vancouver, B.C. Also, four IU Bloomington researchers will present at the meeting. Descriptions of their talks and contact information are below.

New data on the "excellence gap" in the U.S.

Jonathan Plucker

Jonathan Plucker

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Much of education policy has focused on the goal of shrinking achievement gaps, the differences between, for example, students living in poverty versus those who are not. However, these gaps are better characterized as minimum competency gaps -- differences between groups at low benchmarks of achievement. Jonathan Plucker, professor of educational psychology and cognitive science in the IU School of Education, will present new evidence on excellence gaps -- group differences at high levels of achievement in the U.S. -- which are arguably better indicators of future innovation and economic achievement.

Relying on results of reading and math scores for the 2009 and 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the paper will extend the knowledge of excellence gaps beyond a 2010 study, "Mind the (Other) Gap: The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education," which used 2007 data.

"Excellence Gap Research in the United States: A 20-Year Perspective," 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, Room 119-120 (VCC West Building)

To speak with Plucker, contact Steve Hinnefeld, IU Communications, 812-361-2121 or; or Chuck Carney, IU School of Education, 812- 856-8027 or

International excellence gaps by gender and nation of birth

David Rutkowski

David Rutkowski

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David Rutkowski, professor of education leadership and policy studies in the IU School of Education, will present an analysis of international excellence gaps as reflected by results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, conducted four times between 1995 and 2007.

The paper, by IU faculty members David Rutkowski, Leslie Rutkowski and Jonathan Plucker, uses an international approach and a multilevel model for change to examine trends in excellence gaps over time with specific emphasis on gender and immigrant status of the student. They find evidence in favor of shrinking gender-based excellence gaps in both science and mathematics. With respect to immigrant status, most of the surveyed countries showed few if any differences over time in the proportion of high achievers born in or outside of the country of the test.

"International Excellence Gaps: Evidence From International Assessments," 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, Room 119-120 (VCC West Building)

To speak with David Rutkowski, contact Steve Hinnefeld, IU Communications, 812-361-2121 or; or Chuck Carney, IU School of Education, 812- 856-8027 or

The spread of political information through social media

Filippo Menczer

Filippo Menczer

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Filippo Menczer, professor in the IU School of Computer Science and Informatics, will present ongoing work on the diffusion of information in social media, focusing in particular on the Twitter microblogging network and its use in politics. He will show that Twitter's "retweet network" segregates individuals into two distinct, homogenous communities of left- and right-leaning users. Its "mention network," however, does not exhibit this kind of segregation, instead forming a communication bridge across which information flows between these two partisan communities.

Menczer and his colleagues propose a mechanism to explain these divergent topologies and provide statistical evidence to support their hypothesis. Finally, he will introduce a model of the competition for attention in social media. He will show that the relative popularity of different topics, the diversity of information to which we are exposed, and the fading of our collective interests for specific memes, can all be explained as deriving from a combination between the competition for limited attention and the structure of social networks.

"Tracking the Diffusion of Ideas in Social Media," 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, Ballroom A (VCC West Building)

To speak with Menczer, contact IU Communications staff Steve Hinnefeld at 812-361-2121 or or Steve Chaplin at 812-856-1896 or

Using virtual organizations to improve medical research

William Barnett

William Barnett

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At a time when medical research increasingly requires collaboration by large numbers of busy people, the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute HUB offers a model for using advanced information technology to link scientists, health providers, community partners and others for the purpose of accelerating clinical and translational research.

William K. Barnett, director of information architecture for the Indiana CTSI, will describe the project, a virtual, institution-scale medical research organization that includes Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame. Barnett will explore the uses of HUBzero, an open-source software platform created by Purdue scientists, to support health care research and practice by enabling researchers to share access to sensitive data, share files and have discussions, and create, use and share databases.

"Collaborative Infrastructures for Health-Care Research," 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19

To speak with Barnett, contact IU Communications staff Steve Hinnefeld at 812-361-2121 or or Steve Chaplin at 812-856-1896 or

The consequences of mass imprisonment

William Pridemore, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at IU Bloomington, organized a panel on "The Social Consequences of Mass Imprisonment in the United States, which takes place from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18. Pridemore will not be present for the discussion. Pridemore serves as liaison to AAAS for the American Society of Criminology.