2019 International Conference on Social Computing, Behavioral-Cultural Modeling, & Prediction and Behavior Representation in Modeling and Simulation
July 09-12, 2019, Lehman Auditorium, George Washington University, Washington DC, USA

Challenge 1 - Opioids


Opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal drugs (heroin), synthetic drug (e.g. fentanyl), and many pain relievers (e.g Vicodin®). These drugs are chemically related and interact with the opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain.

The US is facing an opioid crisis. Deaths from opioids are increasing. Opioid abuse is a serious public health issue. Today, overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury deaths in the US.

In this year’s SBP-BRiMS challenge problem, we ask participants to consider the issue of opioid abuse.

The broad questions of interest are:

  • How can we use openly available data design effective intervention strategies?
  • What are the socio-demographic and spatial predictors of regions where opioid abuse is likely to increase?
  • What interventions might mitigate the opioid problem?
  • What populations are most at risk from opioid abuse and where are they?

These questions are only intended to give a rough idea of what might be an interesting topic to explore for this challenge problem, and by no means the only questions of interest. All entries must have both a strong social theory, political theory or policy perspective and a strong methodology perspective.


  • Participants may work individually or in teams.
  • Participants must use the Cincinnati Heroin overdose data https://insights.cincinnati-oh.gov/stories/s/Heroin/dm3s-ep3u/
  • Participants should address a social science theory or policy relevant issue and should employ one or more methodologies appropriate for the empirical assessment of big data (e.g., computational algorithms, machine learning, computer simulation, social network analysis, text mining).
  • Each participating team may prepare only one entry.
  • Entries must represent original work that has not been previously published or submitted to other challenges.
  • Each participating team must send at least one member to the SBP-BRiMS 2019 conference to present a poster describing their entry, to do a presentatation that is video taped, and to, if they win, do a presentation on the last day. At least one team member must register and attend the conference.
  • Participants are encouraged to use a second data set. This data set must be either publicly available data or the participants must make it publicly available by submitting it along with their challenge paper.
  • At the conference, all entries will be judged by the community using a participant voting system.
  • The individual or group that submits the winning entry, and that submitting the runner-up entry, will have their full length paper describing their challenge solution published in an SBP-BRiMS special issue of the journal Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory. Submission to the challenge problem means that you consent to publish the fill length paper in this venue.


A strong entry will have one or more of these components:

  • Employ multiple data sets.
  • Include a high quality visualization (note that participants will be allowed to display dynamic visualizations via some form of electronic media e.g., by hanging a tablet from the poster. However, please note that tables will not be provided.
  • Account for biases in the data across time, space, topics and sources.
  • Provide a new metric or algorithm development such as:
    1. A new spatial, temporal, and network analytic methodologies and algorithms that can cope with the vast scale of open source data (e.g. Twitter data) and support answering a key social or policy issue.
    2. A new spatial analytic methodology that can better take into account change over time and non-spatial distances (such as co-occurrences and semantic similarity between locations).
    3. A new network methodology that better incorporate the diversity of actor and relationship types in the data, spatio-temporal information, or for constructing edges from the data and for distributing actor and edge attributes onto the graph.
    4. A novel simulation that supports reasoning about patterns in the opiod crisis that uses empirical data to either instantiate the model or to confirm some of the results.
  • Generate a new empirical finding that challenges or provides novel support for existing social or political theory, or provides information of policy relevance. Note, the results of computer simulation are viewed as empirical findings.

In addition, a strong entry should be well-written and provide some level of creativity in its use of or combination of data.

Submitting and Entry

What to Submit

You need to submit 3 things - A Challenge Paper, A PDF of your poster, and a PowerPoint promotion slide. All three of these will go in the on-line proceedings.

Challenge Paper: A paper describing the project. This should be a maximum of 10 pages, including references. This should define:

  • What social/policy question was asked or challenge addressed?
  • Why is this question important or the challenge critical in the context of opioid crisis?
  • What data sets were used?
  • What is the novel contribution?
  • What is the key methodology or methodologies used?
  • What is the key policy issue or theory being addressed?
  • Who is the team? Provide names, email and affiliations.
  • A PDF of the poster. This will be put on line.

You are, however, responsible for printing and bringing your own poster to the conference. An easel will be provided, but not posterboard.

The poster should be either 4’x3’ or 3’x4’.

Promotion Slide: A one page promotion slide to be used to entice people to come see your paper. This is a single PowerPoint slide. The purpose of this slide is to excite people to come to your poster. This slide will also be put on line. You will be given one minute to present this slide at the conference to encourage people to come and see your poster. This slide should contain:

  • Title of project
  • Names of all team members
This slide may contain:
  • Any word or image or idea that you think will promote your poster
  • Logos for your group, company or organization

When to Submit

Challenge Response Submission: 17-May-2019, At this point just send the short abstract.

Author Notification: 01-June-2019

Final Version Challenge Response Submission: 25-June 2019, At this point send the paper, the slide, and a PDF of the poster.

How to Submit

All challenge participants will need to submit these items:

  1. Short Abstract: Due May 17th. This is a minimum of 2 pages and a maximum of 6 pages including references and figures. It should address what was done, how it was done, what data was used, and how this met the challenge.
  2. One page slide: This is a synopsis slide that will be used in the 1 minute teaser presentation to get people to come to the poster.
  3. PDF of the poster that can be viewed online.
  4. Final Challenge paper: Due June 25th. This is a maximum of 10 pages including references and figures. These should not have been submitted elsewhere. These will be put on the conference website as part of the online proceedings which is not archival. In addition, the final paper of the winner, runner up, and potentially other final papers, will be published in a special issue of the journal of Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory which is archival. Submission of a challenge entry constitutes willingness to have the final challenge paper published in the venue.
  5. Who is the team? Provide names, email and institution.
  6. The abstract, slide, and poster that are student-led need to be clearly marked as student-led. To be considered student-led the following conditions must be met:
    1. The project was led by a student enrolled in a university
    2. The project is not coming out of a corporation, government lab, or FFRDC

The submission website is available at: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=sbpbrims2019. Be sure to choose the Challenge track.

What to Present

All entries will send at least one team member to SBP-BRiMS 2019 who will be registered for the conference by the early registration deadline, June 20, to present their poster in the poster-session. The poster will be 4’x3’ or 3’x4’. Participants may bring in additional props to enhance their presentation. In addition, the team spokesperson should be ready to present a 1 minute talk using the slide, to encourage people to come to their poster. Each team will also do a short talk that will be video taped and made available describing their approach and solution. Finally, the winning entry will give a short talk on the last day of the conference.

Download a consent form for videotaping here and submit the form at the registration desk when you arrive for the conference.

How Entries will be Judged

Entries will be judged by community voting at the poster session.

Who is Eligible

Anyone with an interest in using this data to address a social or policy issue. Entries are accepted from single individuals or teams.

Note all SBP-BRiMS program committee members, all challenge committee members are eligible. Why? Because the vote is done by community voting.

Winning Entry

The final paper for the winning entry will be published in the journal Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory – in the SBP-BRiMS 2018 special issue. In the case of a tie, both papers will be published.

A member of the team that developed the winning entry will do a short presentation on the final day of the conference describing their response to the challenge problem.

Data Sets

We invite participants to explore the online repository for heroin overdoses in Cincinnati Ohio. The data is at https://insights.cincinnati-oh.gov/stories/s/Heroin/dm3s-ep3u/. This data is comprised of the Cincinnati Fire Department responses to reported heroin overdose incidents, and does not include patient information or medical outcome data. It is continually updated, so you will need to state when the data was pulled. Geo-spatial information is provided.

Challenge Committee

  • Kathleen M. Carley
  • Ayaz Hyder

Submit Questions Regarding Challenge

All questions and concerns can be sent to sbp-brims@andrew.cmu.edu

Some useful references:

Compton, Wilson M., and Nora D. Volkow. "Major increases in opioid analgesic abuse in the United States: concerns and strategies." Drug & Alcohol Dependence 81, no. 2 (2006): 103-107.

Rudd, Rose A., Noah Aleshire, Jon E. Zibbell, and R. Matthew Gladden. "Increases in drug and opioid overdose deaths—United States, 2000–2014." American Journal of Transplantation 16, no. 4 (2016): 1323-1327.

Burke, D. S. (2016). Forecasting the opioid epidemic. Science, 354, 529-529.

Dasgupta, N., Beletsky, L., & Ciccarone, D. (2018). Opioid Crisis: No Easy Fix to Its Social and Economic Determinants. American journal of public health, 108(2), 182-186.

Kolodny, A., Courtwright, D. T., Hwang, C. S., Kreiner, P., Eadie, J. L., Clark, T. W., & Alexander, G. C. (2015). The prescription opioid and heroin crisis: a public health approach to an epidemic of addiction. Annual review of public health, 36, 559-574.

Winstanley, E. L., Clark, A., Feinberg, J., & Wilder, C. M. (2016). Barriers to implementation of opioid overdose prevention programs in Ohio. Substance abuse, 37(1), 42-46.