Dr. John McLevey

Associate Professor, University of Waterloo


Hello! I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Knowledge Integration (Environment) at the University of Waterloo, with cross-appointments to Sociology & Legal Studies and Geography & Environmental Management. My current research addresses three broad and longstanding themes that cut across the social, cognitive, and computational/statistical sciences. First, I am developing generative models of schematic cognition, social influence, and cultural learning to deepen our knowledge of how latent opinions, identities, beliefs, and behaviors form and co-evolve, and to better measure polarization and large-scale cultural change. In developing these models, I am primarily focused on culture related to five substantive issues: climate change and environmental policy; privacy, security, and surveillance; democracy and autocracy; science and expertise; and, finally, lifestyle preferences and politics. Second, I am using these models as digital ‘laboratories’ (of a sort) to better understand the workings and impacts of coordinated information operations such as disinformation campaigns and censorship on populations. Third, I am using data from social media platforms to better understand the role of emotional dynamics and identity-related processes in online political discussions. I approach each of these projects as a computational social scientist with expertise in network science and social network analysis, probabilistic and generative modelling, and computational text analysis. My work is funded by research grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. To learn more, download my CV or visit the website for my research lab, Netlab. Outside of work, I generally spend my time playing basketball, hiking, strength training, traveling (well, pre-COVID anyway…), and reading. When I am not traveling for work, I split my time between Waterloo (ON), Toronto (ON), and St. John’s (NL).

Appointments, Affiliations, & Other Roles

Associate Professor

University of Waterloo | 2019 - Present

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Knowledge Integration in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo. I am also appointed to Geography & Environmental Management and Sociology & Legal Studies. Prior to 2019, I was an Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo (2013-2019). Prior to that, I was completing my PhD at McMaster University.

Policy Fellow

BSIA | 2013 - Present

Faculty Member

CPI | 2014 - Present

Affiliate Researcher

WICI | 2013 - Present

Co-Organizer and Instructor

FSPS | 2018 - Present

Co-Organizer and Instructor for Science Outside the Lab, North. SOtL is a program run by the Forum on Science, Policy, and Society (FSPS).

Visiting Scholar

Scuola Normale Superiore | 2019

Department of Political and Social Sciences. Scuola Normale Superiore. Florence, Italy.

Chair of Faculty Council

Faculty of Environment | 2021-2022

Chair of Faculty Council, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo

Academic Books

Doing Computational Social Science


John McLevey. 2022. London, UK: Sage.

The Face to Face Principle and the Internet: Science, Trust, Truth, and Democracy


HM Collins, R Evans, M Innes, W Mason-Wilkes, E Kennedy, and J McLevey (Collins as lead author with others listed alphabetically). 2022. Cardiff, UK: Cardiff University Press.

Industrial Development and Eco-Tourisms: Is Co-existence Possible Between Oil Exploration and Nature Conservation?


Mark Stoddart, Alice Mattoni, and John McLevey. 2020. London, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.

The Sage Handbook of Social Network Analysis (2nd Volume)

In Progress

John McLevey, Peter Carrington, and John Scott (Editors). In Progress. London, UK: Sage.

Other Publications, Grants, & Software

Refereed Journal Articles

    • John McLevey, Tyler Crick, Pierson Browne, and Darrin Durant. 2022. ‘A New Method for Computational Cultural Cartography: From Neural Word Embeddings to Transformers and Bayesian Mixture Models.’ Canadian Review of Sociology.
    • Allyson Stokes, Janice Aurini, Jessica Riztk, Rob Gorbet, and John McLevey. 2022. ‘Using Robotics to Support the Acquisition of 21st Century Competencies: Promising (and Practical) Directions.’ Canadian Journal of Education.
    • Jessica Rizk, Janice Aurini, Allyson Stokes, Rob Gorbet, and John McLevey. 2022. ‘Leading through the COVID-19 Pandemic: Research with Canadian Education Leaders.’ Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy.
    • David Tindall, John McLevey, Yasmin Koop-Monteiro, and Alexander Graham. 2022. ‘Big Data, Computational Social Science, and Other Recent Innovations in Social Network Analysis.’ Canadian Review of Sociology / Revue canadienne de sociologie.
    • Igor Grossman, Oliver Twardus, Michael E. W. Varnum, Eranda Jayawickreme, and John McLevey. 2021. ‘Expert Predictions of Societal Change: Insights from the World after COVID Project.’ American Psychologist.
    • Kathryn S. Plaisance, Janet Michaud, and John McLevey. Forthcoming 2021. ‘Pathways of Influence: Understanding the Impacts of Philosophy of Science in Scientific Domains.’ Synthese.
    • Mark Stoddart, John McLevey, Vanessa Schweizer, and Catherine Wong. 2020. ‘Climate Change and Energy Futures: Theoretical Frameworks, Epistemological Issues, and Methodological Perspectives.’ Introduction to an edited special issue of Society & Natural Resources.
    • Kathryn S. Plaisance, Alexander V. Graham, John McLevey, and Janet Michaud. 2019. ‘Show Me the Numbers: A Quantitative Portrait of the Attitudes, Experiences, and Values of Philosophers of Science.’ Synthese. 1-31.
    • Owen Gallupe, John McLevey, and Sarah Brown. 2018. ‘Selection or Influence? A Meta-Analysis of the Association between Peer and Personal Offending.’ Journal of Quantitative Criminology. 1-23.
    • John McLevey, Alexander Graham, Reid McIlroy-Young, Pierson Browne, and Kathryn S. Plaisance. 2018. ‘Interdisciplinarity and Insularity in the Diffusion of Knowledge: An Analysis of Disciplinary Boundaries Between Philosophy of Science and the Sciences.’ Scientometrics. 117(1):331-349.
    • John McLevey and Reid McIlroy-Young. 2017. ‘Introducing metaknowledge: Software for Computational Research in Information Science, Network Analysis, and Science of Science.’ The Journal of Informetrics. 11: 176-197.
    • Allyson Stokes and John McLevey (equal authors). 2016. ‘From Porter to Bourdieu: The Evolving Specialty Structure of English Canadian Sociology, 1966- 2014.’ Canadian Review of Sociology / Revue canadienne de sociologie. 53(2):176–202.
    • John McLevey. 2015. ‘Understanding Policy Research in Liminal Spaces: Think Tank Responses to Diverging Principles of Legitimacy.’ Social Studies of Science. 45(2):270-293.
    • John McLevey. 2014. ‘Think Tanks, Funding, and the Politics of Policy Knowledge in Canada.’ Canadian Review of Sociology / Revue canadienne de sociologie. 51(1):54-75.

Refereed Chapters in Edited Volumes

    • John McLevey and Tyler Crick. Forthcoming 2021. ‘Machine Learning and Neural Network Language Modelling for Sentiment Analysis.’ In Luke Sloan and Anabel Quan-Haase (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Social Media Research. Sage.
    • John McLevey, Pierson Browne, and Tyler Crick. Forthcoming 2021. ‘Reproducibility, Transparency, and Principled Data Processing.’ In Uwe Engel and Anabel Quan-Haase (eds.) Handbook of Computational Social Science. Routledge.
    • David Tindall, Mark Stoddart, John McLevey, Lorien Jasny, Dana R. Fisher, Jennifer Earl, and Mario Diani. Forthcoming 2021. ‘The Challenges and Opportunities of Ego-Network Analysis of Social Movements and Collective Action.’ In Mario Small, Brea Perry, Bernice Pescosolido, and Edward Smith (Eds.) Personal Networks: Classic Readings and New Directions in Ego-centric Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • John McLevey, Allyson Stokes, and Amelia Howard. 2018. ‘Pierre Bourdieu’s Uneven Influence on Anglophone Canadian Sociology.’ Thomas Medvetz and Jeff Sallaz (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Pierre Bourdieu. Oxford: Oxford University Press. NOTE: This chapter was translated into French and published in Franck Poupeau and Amín Pérez (eds.) 2021. Bourdieu and the Americas. Institut des Hautes Etudes de Amerique Latine Presses.
    • John McLevey and Ryan Deschamps. 2018. ‘The Sociology of Public Policy Formation and Implementation.’ William Outhwaite and Stephen Turner (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Political Sociology. SAGE.

Policy & Research Reports

    • John McLevey, Pierson Browne, Tyler Crick, and Jillian Anderson. 2020. ‘Applied Computer Vision for Disinformation Research: An Analysis of Twitter’s Elections Integrity Data on Russian and Chinese Information Operations.’ Research report for the Crime & Security Research Institute, Cardiff University.
    • John McLevey, Pierson Browne, and Tyler Crick. 2020. ‘Online Deception & Dynamic Narrative Networks.’ Research report for the Crime & Security Research Institute, Cardiff University.
    • Gorbet, Rob, Janice Aurini, Jessica Risk, Allyson Stokes, John McLevey, and Nicole Figueiredo. 2020. “COVID-19 Pandemic and Canadian Schooling.” Prepared for Education Onward Council in consultation with Fair-Chance Learning.
    • Aurini, Janice, Rob Gorbet, John McLevey, Jessica Rizk, Allyson Stokes (Alphabetical). 2019. “White Paper on Ed-Tech Connect: An Intersectoral Workshop on Education, Technology, and 21st Century Labour.” Funded by SSHRC Connections Grant.
    • Janice Aurini, John McLevey, Allyson Stokes, and Rob Gorbet. 2017. ‘Classroom Robotics and Acquisition of 21st Century Competencies: An Action Research Study of Nine Ontario School Boards.’ Report for the Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE) and the Ministry of Education, Ontario.

Special Issues of Peer-Reviewed Journals

    • David Tindall, John McLevey, and Nina Kolleck (editors). Social Networks and Climate Change. Special issue / section of Social Networks. Special issue currently in progress.
    • Mark Stoddart, John McLevey, Vanessa Schweizer, and Catherine Wong (editors). 2020 Climate Change and Energy Futures. Special issue of Society and Natural Resources.

Research Grants

    • (2020-2025) John McLevey (PI), Anabel Quan-Haase (Co-Applicant), David Tindall (Co-Applicant), Collaborators: Darrin Durant, Deena Abul-Fottouh, Owen Gallupe, Martin Innes. ‘Disinformation, Democracy, and Online Political Deliberation.’ SSHRC Insight Grant, $219,003 + $20,000 research supplement from the Department of Canadian Heritage Initiative for Digital Citizenship.
    • (2020-2025) Kathryn S. Plaisance (PI), Kevin Elliott (Collaborator), Michael O’Rourke (Collaborator), Lisbeth Berbary (Collaborator), John McLevey (Collaborator). ‘Engaging Science with Philosophy: Best Practices for Fostering Effective Collaboration.’ SSHRC Insight Grant, $154,406.
    • (2019) Janice Aurini, Allyson Stokes, John McLevey, Jessica Riztk, and Rob Gorbet. ‘Ed-Tech Connect: An Intersectoral Workshop on Education, Technology, and 21st Century Labour.’ SSHRC Connection Grant, $16,400 (plus matching funds).
    • (2018-2019) Mark Stoddart (PI), John McLevey, (Co-Applicant), John Sandlos (Co-Applicant), Vanessa Schweizer (Co-Applicant), Catherine Mei Ling Wong (Co-Applicant). Climate Change and Energy Futures Workshop: Challenges and Opportunities for Global and Interdisciplinary Research. SSHRC Connection Grant, $24,373 (plus $14,339 in matching funds from Memorial University and University of Waterloo).
    • (2016-2022) David Tindall (PI), John McLevey (Co-Applicant), Mark Stoddart (Co-Applicant). Collaborators: Mario Diani, Jennifer Earl, Dana R Fisher, Philip Leifeld, Andrew Jorgenson, Philippe Le Billon, Don Grant, Moses Boudourides. Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Insight Grant Application. ‘Making sense of climate action: Understanding social mobilization to curb anthropogenic climate change through advances in social network analysis,’ $282,672
    • (2016-2020) John McLevey (PI), Ontario Early Researcher Award, Ministry of Research and Innovation, ‘Information and Idea Diffusion in an Open Source Collaboration Network,’ $150,000.
    • (2016-2018) John McLevey (PI), Owen Gallupe (Collaborator) and Martin Cooke (Collaborator), Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Insight Development Grant, “Remaking the Boundaries of Open and Proprietary Science: A Longitudinal Study of Biomedical Research and Development Networks in Canada” $67,790.
    • (2015-2016) John McLevey (PI) and Vanessa Schweizer (Co-Applicant), Basillie School of International Affairs, Major Workshops Grant, ‘Challenges and Opportunities for Governance of Socio-Ecological Systems in Comparative Perspective,’ $8,400.
    • (2013) University of Waterloo, Faculty Research Startup Grant, $15,000.

Scientific Software (Developed in/by Netlab)

    • metaknowledge is a Python package that simplifies science-of-science research using bibliometric data from various sources. It reads a directory of plain text files containing meta-data on publications and citations, and writes to a variety of data structures that are suitable for quantitative, network, and text analyses. It handles large datasets (e.g. several million records) efficiently. You can read about metaknowledge in McLevey and McIlroy-Young (2017). (Documentation Link | GitHub Link)
    • M2C3 is a Python package implementing methods and models (M2) of cultural cognition and change (C3) using survey data, with an emphasis on relational class analysis (Goldberg 2011), correlational class analysis (Boutyline 2017), and belief network analysis (Boutyline and Vaisey 2017). Designed and developed by John McLevey. Currently in beta and under active development. (The alpha version was called dems.)
    • simkit is a Python package for generative modelling (esp. agent-based computational models and probabilistic models) of cultural learning and social influence, structural identity and affect control, associative diffusion, and institutional emergence. Developed by John McLevey. Currently in beta and under active development. Designed and developed by John McLevey. Currently in beta and under active development. (The alpha version was called oddresults.)
    • pdpp is a Python package that simplifies ‘(p)rincipled (d)ata (p)rocessing’ workflows in (P)ython (see McLevey, Browne, and Crick 2021, based on Patrick Ball’s framework). (GitHub Link)
    • Nate is a Python package that facilitates research at the intersection of social network analysis / network science and applied natural language processing. It scales efficiently for large and complex datasets. It offers functionality for seamlessly connecting state-of-the-art machine learning models used in natural language processing with methods and probability models used in network analysis. (GitHub Link)
    • dcss is a Python package that accompanies John McLevey. 2022. Doing Computational Social Science: A Practical Introduction. London, UK: Sage.