This Week in Research: Terrorist Leadership & The Problems with Robot Surgery

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Terrorist-cells

When the leader of a terrorist network is killed, imprisoned, or otherwise incapacitated, a power vacuum is created. Recent findings may help government and military leaders figure out who is likely to fill that vacuum — and determine what steps to take next.

The UMD team developed an analytics tool called “STONE” (Shaping Terrorist Organizational Network Efficacy), which is able to predict with 80 percent accuracy who would take on a leadership role in a terrorist organization once the leader was removed. The team created the algorithm using unclassified data about members’ organizational roles, time in the group, and social ties to other members. “This is a not a computing tool that tells [analysts] what to do,” said UMD computer science prof V.S. Subrahmanian. “It is something that can help them better understand the situation or situations they are dealing with, which can ultimately decrease the efficacy of these organizations.”

And the tool may end up having applications that go beyond the terrorist world; Subrahmanian suggests that it might be helpful identifying who would replace a corporate CEO, or take on a leadership role in a drug network.

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Remember when robots first started doing surgery? Everyone was so excited! Humans get nervous. Sometimes our hands slip. We make mistakes. Robots? Never. OUt of the 1 million robotic surgeries performed since 2000, only 245 complications — including 71 deaths — were reported to the FDA. Sounds great, right?

But according to a recent study from Johns Hopkins, complications stemming from robotic surgery are significantly underreported. In other words, robot surgery might not be quite as great as it seems.

The number reported is very low for any complex technology used over a million times,” says Martin A. Makary, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Doctors and patients can’t properly evaluate safety when we have a haphazard system of collecting data that is not independent and not transparent. There may be some complications specific to the use of this device, but we can only learn about them if we accurately track outcomes.”

The researchers found that a number of incidents weren’t even reported to the FDA until they made the national news — an indication that hospitals aren’t informing the FDA about every problem, like they should be.



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