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Inside Story: Hirokazu Shirado two months visit to Portugal under the CMU Portugal Program

Hirokazu Shirado, Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), recently conducted a visiting research period in Lisbon. With financial and institutional support from the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, Shirado visited the Group of AI for People and Society (GAIPS) from INESC ID led by Ana Paiva, a researcher at INESC ID and Professor at Instituto Superior Técnico (Técnico) – Taguspark in Oeiras. Shirado worked with the group for under two months, remarking that the visit had been a fantastic opportunity to expand his research agenda and academic networks through communication with researchers at Portuguese institutions, including Ana Paiva and her lab members. 

Shirado reflected on his activities, noting that they could be summarized into three distinct areas:  (i) research development, (ii) research talks, and (iii) cultural experience. 

Throughout the visit, weekly meetings took place with Paiva and later Joana Campos and Filipa Correia, GAIPS members, to develop a collaborative research project. All parties shared an interest in the potential of machines to facilitate human collaboration and decision-making in groups. While machine intelligence has been developed for individual use, it may not always be effective in group settings due to social dynamics and network mechanisms. Shirado recently published a paper examining this point in resource-sharing (Shirado, Hou, & Jung. Scientific Reports 2023). 

Shirado also had a chance to exchange research ideas with Fernando Santos, a former GAIPS member and now an assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Santos and Shirado had communicated with shared interests in social networks and link recommendations before his visit and were able to further discuss it onsite, namely through their collaboration based on Shirado’s recent paper published by PNAS (Shirado, Kasahara, & Christakis. PNAS 2023). Although long-time acquaintances, this was an opportunity to deepen their ideas and explore a collaboration that now extends past the visit. 

The CMU researcher gave three research talks around Lisbon during the visit: the first talk was for GAIPS at IST-Taguspark, the second was for Zachary Mainen and his lab members at Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, and the third was a CMU Portugal Talk at Interactive Technologies Institute (ITI). 

During the talk at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Shirado talked about his ongoing project involving neuropsychological assessments in social network experiments to Zachary Mainen, who leads a large research group about neuroscience at the medical institution. Through his half-day visit to Mainen’s lab, including the talk, they had fruitful discussions with his lab members to consider the project’s direction. Shirado also had the privilege of introducing his research to CMU Portugal and Técnico I ITI  members, such as CMU National Co-director Nuno Nunes, CMU Portugal Executive Director Silvia Castro, and Instituto Superior Técnico Full Professor, Pedro Lima (Figure 1). 

Figure 1. @CMUPortugal talk at ITI – Hub do Beato

Finally, the two-month stay in Portugal allowed Shirado to learn more about Portuguese culture and triangulate cultural similarities and differences among the United States, Japan (his original country), and Portugal.

“I was amazed to see how people have similar and different social norms in cooperative contexts throughout daily life. This experience-based learning has enriched my research consideration as well as my  personal life.”, shares Shirado.

Following his visit, Shirado shared his opinion about the visit under the Program and left some considerations for future visitors.

What advice would you give to fellow CMU faculty who are considering a visiting period in Portugal?

I would suggest they enjoy different working and living experiences in Portugal. Although we can communicate with collaborators online, visiting them and talking in person could give us a different level of opportunities to foster our academic network. Fortunately, I got them through the CMU Portugal program.

How would you describe the overall outcome of this visiting period? What were the benefits of traveling to Portugal? Have the collaborations you made while visiting continued since your return to CMU? If so, please provide a brief update.

Ana Paiva and I have been working together to realize the research idea we developed during my visit. After I returned to CMU, Pavia formed a research team for the project involving Joana Campos, Filipa Correia, and their students. We are scheduled to discuss the details of the research implementation at the end of this month (February 2024). Separately, I also have monthly meetings with Fernando Santos to make concrete progress in realizing the research ideas we discussed during my stay. Actually, Santos won an ERC Starting Grant, including me as a collaborator.

Do you have plans to collaborate further with these or other Portuguese colleagues in the future?

I will continue the collaboration described above and look for further opportunities to work with other Portuguese colleagues.

More Info about the visit:

Visiting Faculty: Hirokazu Shirado, Assistant Professor, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Visiting host: Professor Ana Paiva
Visiting place: Department of Computer Science and Engineering of IST, University of Lisbon Visiting period
Period: from October 1st to November 24th, 2023