Why Do Promiscuous Queens Produce Healthier Honey Bee Colonies? Study Reveals Surprising Clues

March 12, 2012
Heather Matilla in front of wall of bees

For Immediate Release

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- A new study out of Wellesley College sheds light on the link between genetic diversity and healthier bee colonies—by revealing the makeup of the microscopic life found inside the guts, on the bodies, and in the food of these insects. For the first time, scientists discovered that genetically diverse populations of worker bees, a result of the highly promiscuous mating behavior of queens, benefited from diverse symbiotic microbial communities, reduced loads of bacteria from pathogenic groups, and more bacteria related to helpful probiotic species—famous for their use by humans to ferment food. The novel study provides the first major insight into how honey bee colony health could be improved by diversity.

The dramatic disappearance of honey bee colonies in recent years has led to growing interest in studying unknown aspects of this important pollinator, in an effort to understand what might be done to help save them. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is responsible in part for the loss of 30% or more of the U.S. honey bee population in every year since 2007. The continued loss of honey bees, which pollinate more than 400 crops worldwide, contribute to about a third of our diet, and add an estimated $15 billion in value to the country’s food supplies—could have devastating effects.

While the causes of the deadly disorder remain a mystery, researchers like Heather Mattila, a leading honey bee ecologist at Wellesley College, have long observed that a high level of genetic diversity within a colony—which occurs when a queen bee mates with multiple males—improves the colony’s overall health and productivity, though how colony members produce this effect was largely unknown.

Led by Mattila and Irene L.G. Newton, a microbiologist at Indiana University, the research team compared two groups of honey bee colonies. The first group consisted of genetically diverse populations, produced by promiscuous queen bees that had been inseminated by different mixes of 15 male bees. The second group of colonies was genetically uniform, comprised of offspring from queens mated with a single male each. Using 16S rRNA pyrosequencing, an advanced molecular technique that had never before been used to study active bacteria in honey bees, the scientists were able to identify and compare bacteria across the colonies. The results were astonishing.

The researchers found that diverse honey bee colonies showed a significantly greater variety of active bacterial species with 1,105 species, while only 781 species were found in uniform worker populations. Furthermore, active bacteria from genetically uniform colonies consisted of 127% more potential pathogens, while diverse colonies had 40% more potentially beneficial bacteria.

The team made another surprising discovery: four bacteria known to aid in food processing in other animals dominated bacterial communities in colonies, many of which had never been reported in honey bee colonies. Researchers identified Succinivibrionaceae, a group of fermenters in animals like cows; Oenococcus, which are used by humans to ferment wine; Paralactobacillus, used to ferment food; and Bifidobacterium, which is found in yogurt.

“We’ve never known how healthier bees are generated by genetic diversity, but this study provides strong clues,” said Mattila. “Our findings suggest that genetically diverse honey bees have the advantage of broader microbial communities, which may be key to improving colony health and nutrition—and to understanding factors that can mitigate honey bee decline.”

Newton explained the role these microbes may play, “We found that genetically diverse colonies have a more diverse, healthful, active bacterial community. Conversely, genetically uniform colonies had a higher activity of potential plant and animal pathogens in their digestive tracts.”

The discoveries are important because honey bees, like humans and other animals, depend on the helpful communities of bacteria that live within their guts. In honey bees, active bacteria serve a critical function – they aid in the transformation of pollen collected by worker bees into “bee bread,” a nutritious food that can be stored for long periods in colonies and provides honey bees with most of their essential nutrients. Most researchers believe that poor nutrition has hindered the ability of colonies to defend themselves against health problems, such as CCD.

Mattila, who has been investigating the benefits of genetic diversity in honey bees for seven years, was thrilled by these findings, which were made possible by incorporating Newton’s microbial expertise into the study. “It is our first insight into a means by which colony health could be improved by diversity.” She added, “It shows one of the many ways that the function of a honey bee colony is enhanced when a queen mates promiscuously, which is an unusual behavior for social insects. Most bees, ants, and wasp queens mate singly and produce colonies of closely related, single family workers. Honey bee queens are different in this regard, and this behavior has resulted in extremely productive colonies that dominate their landscape.”

Mattila’s earlier research had found that genetically diverse honey bee colonies are more productive, in part because their members forage at higher rates and more often use sophisticated communication methods, including waggle dancing, to direct nest mates to food. Maintaining diversity in honey bee populations is a challenge for commercial beekeepers, who have been selecting genetic lines for decades in an effort to promote desirable traits in bees—a practice that necessarily whittles down diversity.

Mattila shares her research with beekeeping groups, who she says are “intensely interested” and supportive of her research. She frequently speaks at national beekeeper association meetings and gives public lectures for people who simply want to know how they can help honey bees.

“I recommend that people advocate for bees and consider planting gardens that are friendly to pollinators. Bees should be promoted and not exterminated. I also encourage people to support local beekeepers by buying honey directly from them, which gives them more profit, and thus more flexibility to use techniques that are in the bees’ best interest, even if the methods are more intensive or costly.”

Is there hope yet for the plight of the honey bee? Mattila thinks so. “There is a large community of bee researchers in the United States and around the world, and we are doing everything we can to maximize the health of our most important pollinator.”

###

Co-authors with Mattila and Newton were Wellesley undergraduates Daniela Rios and Victoria E. Walker-Sperling, and Guus Roeselers of the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research. Funding was provided by Wellesley’s Brachman-Hoffman Awards and a grant from the Essex County Beekeepers Association, Massachusetts.

The study, “Characterization of the active microbiotas associated with honey bees reveals healthier and broader communities when colonies are genetically diverse,” will be published in PLoS ONE, March 12, 2012, http://www.plosone.org/.

About Wellesley College

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,400 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 75 countries.

Photos & Interview Opportunities Available

Press Contact: Sofiya Cabalquinto, 781-283-3321, scabalqu@wellesley.edu


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Alumnae in AOL/PBS Series March 1, 2012

Wellesley alums, including Hillary Clinton '69, Madeleine Albright '59, and Nora Ephron '62, appear in Makers, an AOL and PBS initiative aiming to be the "largest and most dynamic collection of women’s stories ever assembled." In one clip, Clinton discusses the benefits of women's colleges; in another, her devotion to women's rights worldwide.

Lucy Marcus '93 Among Top 50 "Most Influencial Execs on the Web" February 29, 2012

Lucy Marcus '93 ranked 19th on the Reuters & Klout 50 list of “Most Influential Execs on the Web" and, in November, was recognized with the Thinkers 50 “Future Thinkers" award. Marcus has emerged as a leading voice on future-proofing boardrooms and companies around the world. 

Michael P. Jeffries on 'Nerd Pride' February 28, 2012

Wellesley's Michael P. Jeffries, assistant professor of American studies and contributor to The Guardian, recently wrote about a new news and political show on MSNBC through which, according to Jeffries, host Melissa Harris-Perry "unabashedly brings the content of 'nerddom' to a massive viewing audience."

Liberal Arts Learning in the Digital Age February 28, 2012

Library & Technology Services presents the first in a series of symposia, Liberal Arts Learning in the Digital Age. Today Mala Radhakrishnan (chemistry), Orit Shaer (computer science), Brian Tjaden (computer science), and Michelle Ferreirae '13 discuss interdisciplinary science. Participate on campus at 4:00 pm in SCI 278 or via live stream .

Film Coproduced by Wellesley Alumna Wins Oscar February 27, 2012

Fazeelat Aslam '07 (not pictured) coproduced Saving Face, winner of the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject). It follows a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon's journey to Pakistan and his work with survivors of acid attacks.

 

We Are Africa

We are Africa by Ama Adi-Dako '14

 

Massachusetts 4th District Congressional Debate at Wellesley College, October 15

October 2, 2012

Third Debate Between Candidates Running for Congress in the Massachusetts 4th Congressional District—Sean Bielat and Joseph Kennedy III—To Take Place at Wellesley College

WELLESLEY, Mass.—Wellesley College will join the League of Women Voters in sponsoring a debate between the two candidates running for Congress in the Massachusetts 4th Congressional District. Sean Bielat (Republican) and Joseph Kennedy III (Democrat) have accepted the invitation to join the forum.

Moderated by The League of Women Voters’ Jo-Ann Berry, co-chair of the Citizen Education Committee of the Massachusetts League, the debate will take place on Monday, October 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall at Wellesley College. H. Kim Bottomly, President of Wellesley College, and Karen Price, director of the Massachusetts League and Needham League President, will give opening remarks.

The contest to succeed U.S. Representative Barney Frank in the newly redrawn district is one of the most closely watched congressional races this election year. The Oct. 15 debate is one of only three announced by the candidates: the other two are a Channel 5 WCVB debate on Sept. 30 and an Oct. 10 debate in Fall River, hosted by MassINC and CommonWealth Magazine. The debate at Wellesley offers citizens a rare opportunity to get to know the candidates and their positions a few weeks before the elections.

According to President Bottomly, a lively exchange of ideas is not only central to Wellesley’s role as a leading educational institution, but a hallmark of our very democracy. “We are pleased to join with the League to offer the candidates the opportunity to voice their positions on the important issues of the day—and we are delighted to invite our neighbors to enrich the discussion with a variety of perspectives," she said.

The debate program is free and open to the public. Students from colleges and high schools located in the 4th District—including Babson College, Olin College, Lasell College, Mass Bay Community College, Newbury College, Pine Manor College, Regis College, Wellesley High School, and the Dana Hall School—have been invited to attend and pose questions to the candidates.

The district includes towns in Bristol County: Acushnet, Attleboro, Berkley, Dartmouth, Dighton, Easton, Fairhaven, Fall River, Freetown, Mansfield, New Bedford, North Attleboro, Norton, Raynham, Rehoboth, Seekonk, Somerset, Swansea, Taunton, and Westport; in Middlesex County: Newton and Sherborn; in Norfolk County: Bellingham, Brookline, Dover, Foxborough, Franklin, Medfield, Medway, Millis, Needham, Norfolk, Plainville, Sharon, Wellesley, and Wrentham; in Plymouth County: Halifax, Lakeville, Marion, Mattapoisett, Middleborough, Rochester, and Wareham; and in Worcester County: Hopedale and Milford.

WHAT: Debate in contest for the Massachusetts 4th Congressional District

WHO: Sean Bielat and Joseph Kennedy III

WHEN: Monday, October 15, 2012

6:45 p.m. – Doors open, voter registration begins (must bring valid photo ID)

7 p.m. – Reception

7:30 p.m. – Debate and Q&A

WHERE: Wellesley College in the Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02476

This event is free and open to the public. Parking is complementary and readily available. Public seating is first come, first served; no tickets are required.

The 7 part live stream video of this debate is available at Youtube.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,400 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 75 countries. For more information, visit www.wellesley.edu.

PRESS CONTACTS:

Sofiya Cabalquinto, Wellesley College, 781-283-3321, scabalqu@wellesley.edu
Anne Yu, Wellesley College, 781-283-2901, ayu@wellesley.edu

To request press credentials, please email mediarelations@wellesley.edu

---

This event sponsored by an endowed fund established by Carolyn Ann Wilson, class of 1910, and with additional support from the Wellesley College President’s Office and the Committee on Lectures and Cultural Events.


Wellesley One of the Only Communities in U.S. with City-wide College Participation in EPA’s Green Power Partnership

June 4, 2012

May 21, 2012 (Wellesley, Mass.,) -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named all three of the colleges located in Wellesley, MA, Green Power Partners. This makes Wellesley one of the first communities in the nation with all of its institutions of higher education named Green Power Partners.

By participating in the Town of Wellesley’s Power to Choose Renewable Energy Program, the colleges are reducing the environmental impacts of their electricity use and supporting the development of new renewable generation capacity in New England.

The combined green power use of the three colleges amounts to more than 2.5 million kilowatt-hours of green power annually. This is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of more than 200 average American homes annually.

“Colleges and universities have an incredible opportunity to lead the way in reducing the risk of climate change by choosing green power,” said Blaine Collison, Director of EPA’s Green Power Partnership. “Babson College, Massachusetts Bay Community College/Wellesley Campus and Wellesley College are excellent examples of schools that are making this proactive choice and by extension, reducing carbon pollution and protecting public health. EPA is excited to welcome all three schools as Green Power Partners.”

These colleges are committed to sustainability and are implementing a wide range of environmental initiatives including water conservation and waste reduction, as well as increasing energy efficiency while using renewable energy -- making Wellesley one of the greenest college towns in America. The students benefit from sustainability courses as well.

Babson has committed to adhere to the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). Babson College is also a charter participant in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to gauge relative progress toward sustainability.

In addition, Babson and Massachusetts Bay Community College are signatories of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. Wellesley College is a Charter participant in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS).

“All across the Babson campus there are staff, students and faculty tackling issues of sustainability and resource efficiency and working to solve these integrated challenges,” said Shelley Kaplan, Associate Vice President, Facilities at Babson. “The Babson Sustainability Office works to support, enhance and coordinate these efforts,” he said.

“For the past nine years, Massachusetts Bay Community College has realized a $1.6 million savings in its fuel and utility costs on its Wellesley Hills campus through management controls of its heating and cooling systems, installing LED lighting and lighting control mechanisms, and roof replacement projects,” said Marco Brancato, Director of Facilities.  “We are diligent in our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and improve our environmental sustainability.”

"Wellesley College is pleased to partner with our neighboring colleges and the town of Wellesley for the Renewable Energy Program,” said Andrew Evans, Vice President for Finance & Treasurer at Wellesley College. “This partnership extends Wellesley’s commitment to sustainability, and it builds on the conservation efforts of the College’s institution-wide sustainability program. In the past six years the College has reduced electricity consumption by 25 percent. Through this partnership, we’re delighted to continue our efforts with support for alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power."

Environmental sustainability is highly valued at Wellesley College. The College has shifted to integrated pest management and removal of invasive plant species, more energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and increased use of local vendors to supply College needs. Students are active partners, participating in programs that include a free bike-share program and Sustainable Move-Out, an effort to reduce the waste stream by donating clothing and household goods discarded by students leaving campus.

“We are proud to be part of a community where more than 10 percent of residents, and many retailers and educational institutions are minimizing their carbon emissions and moving toward using the Town of Wellesley’s Power to Choose Renewable Energy Program as part of their overall carbon reduction goals,” said Selectman Barbara Searle, Town of Wellesley. “The higher education community in Wellesley is strengthening the collective commitment to creating and implementing environmentally sustainable practices,” Searle said.

Wellesley’s Power to Choose Renewable Energy Program enables the Town, its residents, retailers and large users such as the colleges to choose renewable energy sourced primarily from Spruce Mountain, a wind farm in Maine. This gets the town of Wellesley closer to its goal of reducing energy usage 10 percent below the 2007 baseline by 2013.

For more information, please contact:

Babson College
Michael Chmura, mchmura@babson.edu

Massachusetts Bay Community College
Jeremy Solomon, 781-239-3122

Wellesley College
Sofiya Cabalquinto, scabalqu@wellesley.edu

Wellesley’s Power To Choose Renewable Energy Program
Phyllis Theermann, Phyllis@Theermann.com

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Power Partnership
Mollie Lemon, Lemon.Mollie@epa.gov


Teen childbearing rates in the U.S. are highest in the developed world; Wellesley economist finds income inequality is an important culprit

April 4, 2012

For Immediate Release

Study finds:

  • Teen birth rates vary widely across the U.S.:  Mississippi’s teen birth rate is four times higher than New Hampshire’s
  • Low-income teens living in in areas of high inequality are more likely to have a baby rather than investing in their own economic progress
  • Recent downward trend in U.S. teen birth rate largely unrelated to abstinence only, contraceptive access, or mandatory sex education
  • Studies find teenage childbearing “a symptom, not a cause” of poverty and economic immobility

 

WELLESLEY, Mass.—New research reveals the surprising economics behind the high U.S. teen birth rates, and why Texas teens are giving birth at triple the rate of Massachusetts youth: high income inequality and low opportunity cost.

For the first time, Wellesley College economist Phillip B. Levine and University of Maryland economist Melissa Schettini Kearney conducted a large-scale empirical investigation to study the role that income inequality plays in determining early, non-marital childbearing. Using econometric analysis of large-scale data sets, Levine and Kearney discovered that variation in inequality across the United States and other developed countries can account for a sizable share of the stunning geographic variation in teen childbearing. They found that teens of low socioeconomic status were more likely to give birth if they lived in a state with high income inequality. Moving from a low inequality state to a high inequality state increased their rate of teen childbearing by 5 percentage points.

According to Levine, who teaches economic analyses of social policies as Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics at Wellesley College, it’s long been argued that a sense of hopelessness and despair is closely related to higher rates of teen pregnancy. Levine explained, “If a young woman sees little chance of improving her life by investing in her education and career skills, or by marriage, she is more likely to choose the security, immediate gratification and happiness of parenthood. Our work captures this idea in a standard economics model of decision-making.”

Levine and Kearney derive a formal economic model that incorporates the perception of economic success as a key factor driving one’s decision to have an early, non-marital birth. Their findings show that for poor women living in locations of high inequality, limited opportunity reduces the opportunity cost of early, non-marital childbearing and thereby increases its occurrence.         

While the U.S teen birth is the highest in the developed world (more than triple the rates in Spain, Japan, and Sweden), the national rate has declined since its 1991 peak. Levine and Kearney investigated possible factors behind these trends. The data showed that expanded access to family services through Medicaid and reduced welfare benefits had statistically relevant impact on the lowered rates. However, these factors accounted for only 12% of the teen birth rate decline. Furthermore, Levine and Kearney found that abstinence only or mandatory sex education had no impact on teen birth rates. The researchers determined that factors typically claimed to impact teen pregnancy actually explain very little of the recent trend and call for further investigation.

Levine and Kearney conclude that teen childbearing is so high in the U.S. because of underlying social and economic problems. In other words, teenage childbearing is a symptom, not a cause of poverty.

The findings bear important implications for U.S. policymakers. According to Levine, who has closely studied the economics of social policies, the high rate of teen childbearing in the United States matters because it is a marker of a social problem, rather than the social problem itself. “If the problem is perceived lack of economic opportunity, then policy interventions need to attack that. Access to early childhood education programs and college financial aid, for instance, have proven to be successful in improving the earnings—and sense of hope—of participants. Our findings show that these programs may also have the added benefit of lowering teen pregnancy rates. Giving teens a sense of opportunity and hope may be a much more powerful prescription than abstinence-only, sex education, or birth control combined.”

The research, co-authored by Phillip B. Levine and Melissa Schettini Kearney, is published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and available online:

Why is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States so High and Why Does it Matter?” Melissa Schettini Kearney, Phillip B. Levine

Explaining Recent Trends in the U.S. Teen Birth Rate” Melissa Schettini Kearney, Phillip B. Levine

Income Inequality and Early Non-Marital Childbearing: An Economic Exploration of the "Culture of Despair" Melissa Schettini Kearney, Phillip B. Levine

About Phil Levine, Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics

About Wellesley College
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,400 undergraduate students from 50 states and more than 75 countries.

Press Contacts
Sofiya Cabalquinto, Wellesley College, 781.283.3321, scabalqu@wellesley.edu
Anne Yu, Wellesley College, 781.283.3321, ayu@wellesley.edu


Obama Advisor Leads Discussion on Religious Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America

November 1, 2012

WELLESLEY, Mass.—On the day following the 2012 elections, Wellesley College in partnership with Facing History and Ourselves, will welcome the public to gather for an important conversation on the future of religious pluralism in America, with one of the nation’s leading visionaries on the topic.

Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core and member of President Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, visits Wellesley on Wednesday, November 7 to lead a discussion on interfaith cooperation in the face of religious extremism.

This event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, please click here

WHAT: Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America - A Conversation with Eboo Patel.

The event is co-sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves, an organization that works to combat bigotry and nurture democracy through education. Since it was founded in 1976 in Brookline, Massachusetts, Facing History and Ourselves has grown from an innovative course taught in a single school district to an international organization with more than 150 staff members in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, London, Los Angeles, Memphis, New England, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Toronto, and partnerships worldwide.

WHO: Named by US News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Eboo Patel founded the Interfaith Youth Core in 2002 to help counter the forces of religious extremism. In his new book, Sacred Ground, Patel explores the role of religious pluralism in American history. 
 According to Patel, “Standing up for someone else is the most American thing you can do. From George Washington through Jane Addams and Martin Luther King, it's how this nation was built. I'm proud that Interfaith Youth Core is with Facing History and Ourselves and Wellesley College on an event that hopes to inspire and mobilize the forces of pluralism in our generation."

Victor Kazanjian, Dean of Intercultural Education and Religious and Spiritual Life at Wellesley College, will present remarks.

WHEN:  Wednesday, November 7, 2012, 7:00 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.

WHERE: Wellesley College, Houghton Chapel and Multifaith Center, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA

About Wellesley College
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,400 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 75 countries.

Press Contact:
Sofiya Cabalquinto, 781-283-3321, scabalqu@wellesley.edu

 


New Paper Discusses How Social Media Manipulation Affects Voter Perceptions of Political Candidates, Could Impact Decision Making

October 25, 2012

Wellesley, Mass., October 25, 2012 – In an article to be released tomorrow, Friday, October 26, in Science, a journal by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), two Wellesley College professors discuss the role of social media in elections and how manipulation of social media can both affect a voters’ perception of a candidate and compromise the voters’ decision-making abilities. With two out of three people in the United States using search engines and social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, this sort of manipulation could have major implications for the November election.

“Each of us keeps a mental trust network that helps us decide what and what not to believe,” wrote Panagiotis T. Metaxas, Professor of Computer Science and Founder of Wellesley College’s Media Arts and Sciences Program, and Eni Mustafaraj, Hess Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor in Computer Science. “In times of political elections, the stakes are high, and advocates may try to support their cause by active manipulation of social media. For example, altering the number of followers can affect a viewer’s conclusion about candidate popularity”

Mustafaraj and Metaxas have studied “Google bombing” and discovered the first instance of political “Twitter bombing” and other manipulation efforts to determine how social media propaganda effects voters. “Google bombing,” a type of Web spam that has had an impact on past elections, is less effective now that search engines, including Google, have adjusted their ranking methods to defend against this kind of attack. However, “Twitter bombing,” which Metaxas describes as “creating a large number of Twitter accounts and sending a large number of unsolicited tweets to unsuspecting users within a short period of time,” can potentially confuse voters, especially if it is done shortly before the elections.

According to the researchers, “Twitter bombing” and “astroturfing,” a term used to describe a fake grassroots movement, have become common. The researchers suggest that critical thinking is as important a skill now as it was ever, and it should be integral part of our education.

Using social media for predicting elections is highly controversial. The researchers note that there’s no agreement among researchers yet on what measures should be used for successful prediction. Just having a large number of tweets, for instance, should not suggest a representative sample of the voting population. Metaxas and Mustafaraj found that in political conversations, for example, approximately one percent of twitter accounts are responsible for 30 percent of the tweeting volume, meaning that a significant portion of what a Twitter user monitoring a political conversation sees might actually be propaganda.

Panagiotis “Takis” Metaxas is a Professor of Computer Science and Founder of Wellesley College’s Media Arts and Sciences Program. Eni Mustafaraj is a Hess Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor.

The paper will be available in the Journal Science at http://www.sciencemag.org/ on Friday, October 25, 2012.

About Wellesley College
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,400 undergraduate students from 50 states and 75 countries.

About Wellesley College Faculty and the 2012 Elections
Wellesley's world-class faculty are available to comment on the topics that matter most as we approach Election Day 2012 including issues relating to the presidential election, the Massachusetts senatorial race, and the contest for the Massachusetts 4th Congressional district. Please contact mediarelations@wellesley.edu or visit our special page on elections for more information.

Press Contacts:
Anne Yu, Wellesley College, 781.283.3201, ayu@wellesley.edu
Sofiya Cabalquinto, Wellesley College, 781.283.3321, scabaqu@wellesley.edu


Wellesley Experts on Issues That Could Change the Course of the Elections

October 25, 2012
Wellesley College Assistant Professor of American Studies, Michael Jeffries

From Women’s Rights to Social Media Manipulation to the Impact of the Ground Game, Wellesley Experts Comment on Top Issues That Could Change the Course of the Elections

WELLESLEY, Mass.—Wellesley College’s world-class faculty are available to comment on the topics that matter most as we approach Election Day 2012. Experts can speak on issues relating to the presidential election, the Massachusetts senatorial race, and the contest for the Massachusetts 4th Congressional district. Please contact mediarelations@wellesley.edu to request an interview or more information.

Professor Michael P. JeffriesELECTION INSIGHT: “One of the most dangerous and disturbing facets of this election cycle is the persistence of right wing groups in their efforts to disenfranchise voters. This is not a regional problem; it is a national crisis, with cases of vote suppression and malfeasance in states from Florida to Ohio to Arizona. These efforts constitute a direct attack on American and global democracy, and an explicit insult to the entire American electorate—we should take this very personally. These transgressions are especially audacious and unforgivable because we have documented evidence of similar tactics during each of the past three presidential elections.” –Michael P. Jeffries, expert on voting rights and the cultural significance of President Barack Obama

Michael P. Jeffries’ election-related research examines theories of racism and the cultural significance of Barack Obama. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America (Stanford University Press, January 2013). According to Jeffries, “Basic rights for non-whites in America, including voting rights, immigration, and the right to health and wellness have come under siege during the Obama presidency. Though Obama may not frame these debates as ‘racial’ issues, there is no denying their racial impact, and no way to understand why they are so contentious without talking about racial politics.”

Professor Marion Just, Wellesley CollegeELECTION INSIGHT: “Kudos to Mary Follano, the Long Island mother who, during last Tuesday night's debate, asked Gov. Romney which deductions he was going to cut in order to bring down tax rates. On Tuesday, for the first time in the debates, Mitt Romney actually explained to the audience which of these deductions he would cut. The answer is—all of the above.” –Marion Just, expert on political debates, women’s reproductive rights (Excerpted from Just’s Huffington Post blog)

Marion Just is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College and a research associate of the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She is a consultant to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a member of the advisory board of the Reform Institute, and the editorial board of the Harvard International Journal of Press Politics.  She is a co-author of several books, including We Interrupt This Broadcast: …How to Improve Local News and Win Ratings and Crosstalk: Citizens, Candidates and the Media in a Presidential Campaign. Her current research projects concern political campaigns, psychological aspects of voting, patterns of news, politics on the Internet, and media coverage of women leaders.

Professor Panagiotis MetaxasELECTION INSIGHT: “Using social media for predicting political elections is highly controversial. In times of political elections, the stakes are high, and advocates may try to support their cause by active manipulation of social media. For example, altering the number of followers can affect a viewer’s conclusion about candidate’s popularity.” –Panagiotis T. Metaxas, expert on social media and the elections

Panagiotis “Takis” Metaxas, professor of computer science and founder of Wellesley College’s Media Arts and Sciences Program, with Wellesley College colleague, Hess Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor Eni Mustafaraj, studies the effects of social media manipulation on real time Google search results. In 2011, Metaxas and Mustafaraj were awarded a nearly $500K National Science Foundation grant to study trustworthiness on the social web. In an October 2012 article in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) journal Science, Metaxas and Mustafaraj discuss the role of social media in elections and how manipulation of social media can both affect a voters’ perception of a candidate and compromise the voters’ decision-making abilities.

Hahrie HanELECTION INSIGHT: “The most underreported aspect of this year's election is the important of the ground game. In a close presidential election like the one we’re seeing this year, the election can be won or lost in the field.” –Hahrie Han, expert on Congressional elections, voter motivation, and political participation among underrepresented populations

Hahrie Han is Knafel Associate Professor in the Social Sciences at Wellesley College. Her research focuses on voter motivation, political participation, organizations, and congressional elections and the way citizens, especially those in underrepresented populations, connect to politics. Her book, Moved to Action: Motivation, Participation, and Inequality in American Politics (2009), examines the way people become motivated to participate in politics, focusing on ways to engage underprivileged populations in political action.

ABOUT WELLESLEY COLLEGE
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PRESS CONTACTS:
Sofiya Cabalquinto, Wellesley College, 781-283-3321, scabalqu@wellesley.edu
Anne Yu, Wellesley College, 781-283-2901, ayu@wellesley.edu