Commerce Professors Jingjing Li and Natasha Zhang Foutz Win INFORMS CIST Best Paper Award

From left to right, researchers Jingjing Li, Ting Xu, and Natasha Foutz of UVA, and Bo Bian of the University of British Columbia.

From left to right, researchers Jingjing Li, Ting Xu and Natasha Foutz of UVA, and Bo Bian of the University of British Columbia.

Commerce Professors Jingjing Li and Natasha Zhang Foutz, together with their coauthors, Professors Bo Bian and Ting Xu, took first place for Best Paper at INFORMS’ 2020 Conference on Information Systems and Technology (CIST).

Written with their Darden School of Business colleague Ting Xu and University of British Columbia Professor Bo Bian, “Individualism during Crises: Big Data Analytics of Collective Actions and Policy Compliance amid COVID-19” was chosen from five nominated papers and represents the best of 122 pieces of research accepted from an international pool of 212 submissions.

Their winning paper bested the competition focused on meaningful ideas related to the theme of “Impacting Society through Technology, Analytics, and Policies” at this year’s virtual edition of CIST, which incorporated presentations on healthcare and COVID; marketing analytics; AI and machine learning; fintech and innovation; social media and privacy; and competition and labor.

As documented in a July 2020 article, Li, Foutz, and their coauthors processed a quarter petabyte of data dating back 200 years on an advanced computer cluster of 97 machines in order to measure the time each locality spent on the American frontier. Their idea correlates individualism to COVID-19 compliance and crowdfunding campaigns related to the virus. Li noted that their research revealed that highly individualistic U.S. counties were less willing to heed local lockdown orders and also gave less to COVID-related charitable campaigns; the result created a discrepancy “in collective actions among counties with different levels of individualism,” Li said.

The professors surmise that culture plays a crucial role in an economic response to crises, recommending that policymakers should account for its effects when formulating macroeconomic policies, as explained in their paper’s conclusion:

Using multiple levels of analyses and different identification strategies, we find strong and robust results that individualism discourages social distancing and charitable redistribution, two most important collective actions during the current pandemic. These effects are driven by individualism altering people’s tendency to internalize the externalities of their actions. These findings suggest that culture, in addition to traditional economic factors, can affect the severity of a crisis and the speed of recovery; it also affects the returns to policy interventions. As big data and better techniques become increasingly available to quantify culture and its effects, culture should be integrated into policymaking and macroeconomic analysis.

Read “Individualism during Crises” in its entirety here.

Li and Foutz thank the McIntire School for its tremendous support of this research endeavor.

About INFORMS: The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences is the world’s largest information systems professional association. With more than 12,500 members from around the world, INFORMS promotes best practices and advances in operations research, management science, and analytics to improve operational processes, decision making, and outcomes. Now in its 25th year, INFORMS hosts an array of conferences (such as CIST), competitions, and networking communities; publishes 16 highly cited journals; and offers professional development services.

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