Dr. Manuel Cebrian

About Manuel Cebrian

Dr. Manuel Cebrian is principal research scientist with the Data61 Unit at CSIRO in Melbourne, Australia. He is currently the Scholar-in-Residence at Graphext, a platform for creating vertical knowledge networks from digital feeds and finding expertise in the public conversation. Cebrian is a founding member of Scalable Cooperation, an MIT Media Lab research group. He serves as a member of UNICEF Advisory Board for Data Science and has held positions with the University of California at San Diego, MIT, Brown University, Telefonica Research, as well as IMDEA Networks and Facebook, where he was a visiting scientist. Cebrian earned a Ph.D. in computer science from Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, where his thesis received the Dissertation of the Year Award for his pioneering work on plagiarism networks.

Cebrian's work lies at the intersection of the computer and social sciences. His primary interests include social and financial networks, crowdsourcing, urban economics, and behavioral game theory. Cebrian's contributions were recognized with the Richard E. Newton Award for Excellence in Research in 2015. His work has been supported by grants from Google, the Australian Research Council, the US National Science Foundation, DARPA, the US Army Research Office, the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Masdar Institute of the United Arab Emirates.

Cebrian is particularly interested in understanding to what extent can social networking make it easier to find people and solve real-world problems. His efforts are best illustrated by his victories in the 2009 DARPA Network Challenge and the 2012 Department of State Tag Challenge, an most importantly, his brutal defeat in the 2011 DARPA Shredder Challenge the first case of large-scale crowdsourcing sabotage ever studied. Recent articles by Nature, The Economist, and New Scientist summarize the exciting challenges in this area, put in perspective by a brief history of social search.

Recent projects

PARADOX, an iPhone app that displays trending places based on the Friendship Paradox: PARADOX on the App Store.

Viewpoint: Beyond Viral, M. Cebrian, I. Rahwan and A. Pentland, Communications of the ACM, 59:4, 2016. Accompanying film and art book.

Rapid assessment of disaster damage using social media activity, Y. Kryvasheyeu, H. Chen, N. Obradovich, E. Moro, P. Van Hentenryck, J. Fowler, and M. Cebrian, Science Advances 2, e1500779 (2016). Science Magazine, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Michigan Daily, Die Welt, Deutschlandfunk, Dagens Nyheter, Science News, El Pais, La Vanguardia, Altmetric. Dataset available at Dryad Digital Repository.

Social media fingerprints of unemployment, A. Llorente, M. Garcia-Herranz, M. Cebrian, E. Moro, PLoS ONE 10(5):e0128692 (2015). MIT Technology Review, The Atlantic, Forbes, El Pais, El Confidencial, Nada es Gratis.

Evolution of privacy loss in Wikipedia, M.A. Rizou, L. Xie, T. Caetano, and M. Cebrian, ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining, San Francisco, USA (2016). The Advertiser, Wikimedia Research Showcase, Australian National University.

Selected projects

For a comprehensive list of publications, check Cebrian's Google Scholar profile, his Research Gate profile, his Semantic Scholar profile, or his DBLP bibliography; additional media coverage can be found in his personal webpage.

A more literary narrative about Cebrian's body of work can be found in Nautilus and Medium, and Madri+d.

Time-critical social mobilization, G. Pickard, W. Pan, I. Rahwan, M. Cebrian, R. Crane, A. Madan, and A. Pentland, Science 334(6055):509-512 (2011). New York Times, Rachel Madow, MSNBC, Popular Mechanics, MIT News, IEEE Multimedia, Science News.

Urban characteristics attributable to density-driven tie formation, W. Pan, G. Ghoshal, C. Krumme, M. Cebrian, and A. Pentland, Nature Communications 4, 1961 (2013). Featured in PNAS Core Concepts in Computational Social Science, New York Times, The Atlantic Cities, The Economist, Smithsonian, MIT News. See related work on Urban Crime, covered by CIO, and our analysis the capacity of cities to Organize Events.

Limits of social mobilization, A. Rutherford, M. Cebrian, S. Dsouza, E. Moro, A. Pentland, and I. Rahwan, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 110(16):6281-6286 (2013). NBC, Yahoo! News, Arabian Gazette, La Repubblica.

Error and attack tolerance of collective problem solving: The DARPA Shredder Challenge, N. Stefanovitch, A. Alshamsi, M. Cebrian, I. Rahwan, EPJ Data Science 3:13 (2014). Medium, Nautilus, CNET, San Diego Union-Tribune, UC San Diego News I, UC San Diego News II, KPBS, Phys.org, El Pais, RTVE.

Using friends as sensors to detect global-scale contagious outbreaks, M. Garcia-Herranz, E. Moro, M. Cebrian, N. Christakis, and J. Fowler, PLoS ONE 9(4):e92413 (2014). MIT Technology Review, Yale University News, Chronicle, Business Week, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Huffington Post.

Social sensing for epidemiological behavior change, A. Madan, M. Cebrian, D. Lazer, and A. Pentland, Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp) pp. 291-300, Copenhagen, Denmark (2010). Ginger.io, Nature News.

Reflecting on the DARPA Red Balloon Challenge, J. Tang, M. Cebrian, N. Giacobe, H-W. Kim, T. Kim, and D. Wickert, Communications of the ACM 54(4):78-85 (2011).

Finding red balloons with split contracts: robustness to individuals' selfishness, M. Cebrian, L. Coviello, A. Vattani, and P. Voulgaris, Proceedings of the ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC) pp. 775-788, New York, USA (2012). Talk video.

Crowdsourcing contest dilemma, V. Naroditskiy, N. Jennings, P. Van Hentenryck, M. Cebrian, Journal of The Royal Society Interface 11:20140532 (2014). Social Physics Blog, The Australian, ABC Radio, Quartz, LifeHacker, The Conversation, University of Southampton.

Global manhunt pushes the limits of social mobilization, I. Rahwan, S. Dsouza, A. Rutherford, V. Naroditskiy, J. McInerney, M. Venanzi, N. Jennings, and M. Cebrian, Computer 46(4):68-75 (2013). Scientific American, MIT Technology Review, New Scientist, Wired.

Limited communication capacity unveils strategies for human interaction, G. Miritello, R. Lara, M. Cebrian, and E. Moro, Scientific Reports 3, 1950 (2013). Seminar at UCLA's Mathematics of Social Learning, Antena 3.

News Coverage

English coverage: New York Times, The Economist, Popular Science, Nature News, New Scientist, The Atlantic, Wired, MIT Technology Review, Nautilus, Medium, The Antantic's Citylab, Yale News, The Conversation, The Australian, MIT Technology Review, The Australian, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, CIO, Transparency International, Arts Hub, Mx, Science News, Science Magazine, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Die Welt, Deutschlandfunk, Dagens Nyheter.

Spanish coverage: El Pais, El Mundo, Cinco Dias, Muy Interesante, El Confidencial, Ahora Semanal, RTVE, Cinco Dias, El Pais, Madri+d, El Pais, La Vanguardia, Cadena Ser.


For a beta trial to build and explore vertical knowledge networks, please register your interest at graphext.com.

Scalable Cooperation

For updates from the Scalable Cooperation research group please check scalable.media.mit.edu or contact us at scalable-contact@media.mit.edu.


Scientific correspondence should be directed to Dr. Cebrian at Manuel.Cebrian@data61.csiro.au.

Questions about the Research Group should be directed to Mark Cardy at Ashleigh.Nelson@data61.csiro.au.

Media inquiries should be directed to Elizabeth Mckenzie at Elizabeth.Mckenzie@data61.csiro.au.

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