Social and Decision Analytics

Joel Thurston

  • Senior Scientist
Joel Thurston headshot


Joel Thurston is a Senior Scientist and Research Manager with the University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute Social and Decision Analytics division. Joel received his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). Prior to joining the Biocomplexity Institute, he worked for the UCSB Center for Evolutionary Psychology and the U.S. Army Research Institute. Joel is interested in studying the interface of group perception and group dynamics, conceptualizing and measuring emergent group properties, and the science of team science. He seeks to apply measurement theory and social science research methodologies to develop analytic techniques for administrative data, addressing topics such as how intragroup processes, like cohesion and morale, contribute to individual and team performance. 

As a research manager, Joel leverages his background in administration and group dynamics to develop organizational infrastructure in support of team science within the Social and Decision Analytics division. His work in this area runs the gamut from examining the impact of meeting structure to the use of specific software platforms and how telecommuting policies impact team productivity. He supports efforts across the Biocomplexity Institute, such as coordinating their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and assisting the Network Systems Science and Advanced Computing division with Institutional Review Board procedures. 


    • Group Dynamics
    • Group Perception
    • Conceptual Process Mapping
    • Measurement Theory
    • Research Methodology
    • Science of Team Science
  • Ph.D. in Social Psychology, University of California Santa Barbara

    B.S. in Psychology, University of Pittsburgh

    B.S.B.A. in Business Management, University of Pittsburgh

Past Project
We are assessing the ability for researchers to access, evaluate the quality of, and integrate Department of Defense data to support decision-making related to the military population and to expand the types of questions the data might inform —in particular, the study of important recurring issues to the military, such as attrition.
National Well-being
Through modern data science techniques, we are uncovering the social characteristics of individual and unit performance that drives Soldiers to successfully meet the challenges of rapid technological change they may need to address in future wars. We are recategorizing these data in a social context to capture Army values and Warrior Ethos, such as courage, honor, loyalty, and empathy.
National Well-being
Natural language processing and machine learning are powerful techniques for extracting knowledge from the volumes of text-based data available. Collaborating with our agency partner, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), we are using administrative data from Federal RePORTER to identify the range of R&D topics funded by federal science and technology agencies, including emerging research areas.
Official Statistics
Selected Publications
Social and Decision Analytics
Thurston J . Military-Civilian Transition Research Forum. 2022;
Social and Decision Analytics
Thurston J; Ratcliff N; Halder A; Goldstein J; Schroeder J; Schroeder A; Shipp S; Keller S . Military Operations Research Society (MORS). 2022;
Social and Decision Analytics
Keast J; Pocinki A; Ratcliff N; Thurston J; Santiago-Calderón JB; Schroeder A . MethodSpace. SAGE Publishing.. 2020;
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