Spotlight on CIVICA Women in Research: Elisa Omodei


Elisa Omodei from CEU tells us about her experience with the CIVICA thematic group "Societies in Transition, Crises of Earth".

Elisa Omodei is an assistant professor at Central European University’s (CEU) department of network and data science and part of CIVICA’s “Societies in Transition, Crises of Earth” thematic group. She holds a BSc and a MSc in physics from the University of Padua and Bologna, respectively, and a PhD in applied mathematics for the social sciences from the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Paris. She carried out her postdoctoral training at the Rovira and Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain.  

Omodei spent more than four years at the United Nations - first at UNICEF's Office of Innovation in New York and then at the UN World Food Programme in Rome. In her research, she explores how complexity and data science can help address the needs of the most vulnerable populations and monitor the UN Sustainable Development Goals. She also served as Vice-President Secretary of the Complex Systems Society from 2018 to 2021. 

CEU recently spoke with Omodei about her experience as a member of CIVICA and what opportunities have been presented to her through the alliance. This is an edited interview from May 12, 2023. 

What is your research focus at CEU? 

In my research I explore how network and data science can help us study socio-economic vulnerabilities and monitor the Sustainable Development Goals formulated and adopted in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly. For example, I recently developed machine learning algorithms that can guide food insecurity efforts when primary data are not available. 

Describe your experience with CIVICA so far?  

My experience with CIVICA started about a year ago when I was asked to step in as CEU’s representative in the “Societies in Transition, Crises of Earth” thematic group. Since then, I have participated in regular meetings with the thematic group members, which include representatives from all other CIVICA universities. I also attended the CIVICA Research Conference in Budapest last September, where I took part in two panel discussions: one on “Making sense on the road to achieving Sustainable Development Goals” (organised by my thematic group) and one on “Data Analysis for Social Good.” I also engage with the alliance during CIVICA meetings organised at CEU. 

What would you like to point out about the "Societies in Transition, Crises of Earth" theme group? 

The "Societies in Transition, Crises of Earth" theme group is a very interdisciplinary group composed of researchers with different backgrounds such as economics, political science, public policy as well as data science. What we have in common is the interest for the following topics: sustainability, the societal dimensions of the earth system, knowledge and assessment systems regarding the environment, urban transformations, and the sustainable development goals. 

The group organised two panel discussions at the CIVICA Research Conference and an online Hackathon which provided participants with the opportunity to engage with environmental crises of wildfires and drought in Europe.  

How has participating in CIVICA supported your academic career? 

So far, being part of a CIVICA Research thematic group has been a fantastic opportunity to connect with researchers from other CIVICA universities and learn about their research interests and activities. I recently applied for the CIVICA Faculty Short Visits schema, which, if successful, will give me the opportunity to spend one week at a partner university and potentially create an inter-university collaboration or research project.  

What are your hopes or goals for working in this alliance community over the next couple of years? 

Through the CIVICA Call for Research Proposals last year, several new collaborative research projects were started pertaining to the "Societies in Transition, Crises of Earth" theme, such as, for example “Explorative cases of sustainability and climate change discourse dynamics on social media combining text and network analyses” (DYSTENA) and “Greening or greenwashing banks? Climate-conscious bank stakeholders and their impact” (GREENINGBANKS). My hope for the next couple of years is to see even more research projects sparking from collaborations born within the thematic group. 

Currently, my main goal is to create a community of faculty, postdocs and PhD students at CEU that are working on the thematic group topics and who would like to join CIVICA activities on the topics and contribute with their ideas.