Dr Cohen R. Simpson

Cohen is a sociologist specialising in the quantitative study of human social networks (both online and offline), with a particular interest in the determinants of network formation.

Email: cohen.simpson@oii.ox.ac.uk

Cohen is a Research Fellow and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute and a Research Fellow at Nuffield College. He is a sociologist specialising in the quantitative study of human social networks, focusing in particular on the determinants of network formation.

Cohen has investigated the emergence of diverse inter-organisational and inter-individual networks. With respect to the former, he is principally concerned with how both competitive pressure and a need to be strategic govern tie formation in the networks of advocacy organisations (e.g., think tanks, professionalised non-profits). For this line of work, he uses both data from the Web (e.g., retweets, hyperlinks) and administrative data (e.g., organisations’ tax returns).

His work on networks of individuals is somewhat broader in scope. Specifically, in this line of research he investigates the relative importance of oft-discussed mechanisms of tie formation (e.g., reciprocity vs. transitivity vs. homophily) with a theoretical focus on how individuals’ preferences for ties under various conditions are shaped by cultural context. Empirically, this work uses a novel assemblage of datasets documenting complete or virtually complete face-to-face friendship networks from five rural communities in India, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nicaragua.

Cohen received his PhD in Social Research Methods (Applied Social Statistics) from the London School of Economics & Political Science (Department of Methodology). Before joining the LSE, he completed a MSc in Social Science of the Internet here at the OII as a Clarendon Scholar. Prior to joining the OII’s faculty, he was a post-doc in the Department of Sociology here at Oxford and the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge.

Social Networks Seminar Series

Cohen convenes a seminar series on social networks with his colleague Laurin Weissinger on Tuesdays in the even weeks of each term at 5PM in the Butler Room at Nuffield College. The seminar is concerned with the analysis of diverse social networks, for example those representing friendship amongst children, strategic alliances amongst firms, interactions on social media platforms or informal finance and risk sharing in rural communities. Individuals from all disciplines are welcome. And those who are interested in presenting their research (inclusive of empirical applications, methodological advancements and theoretical developments) should send Cohen an expression of interest. For a schedule of talks this term, please see the Nuffield events page.

Research interests

social networks, mathematical sociology & quantitative methodology, organisational sociology, economic sociology

Positions held at the OII

  • Research Fellow, January 2018 –
  • British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, January 2018 – January 2021
  • MSc student, October 2011 – September 2012

Current projects

  • The Online Manufacture of Climate Change Denial

    Participants: Cohen R. Simpson

    Using administrative and digital trace data, alongside new methods for network and text analysis, this project aims to uncover how think tanks garner attention around their contrarian climate change discourse on social media.

Past projects