Area of Expertise
- Business Analytics
- Machine Learning
- Social Network Analytics
- Social Recommendations
Dr. Zhepeng (Lionel) Li is Associate Professor of Operations Management and Information Systems in the Schulich School of Business at York University, Toronto, Canada. He received his PhD degree in operations and information systems from the University of Utah in 2013. His research interests include data mining, machine learning and computational data science with applications on business analytics, recommendation and social network analytics. He has published in journals including Management Science, Information Systems Research, MIS Quarterly and ACM Transactions. His study is currently supported by the Discovery Grant of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). He has received design science research award of INFORMS in 2016 and co-chaired programs of INFORMS workshop on Data Science and Winter Conference of Business Analytics. Lionel is teaching courses ranging over data science and analytical topics at undergraduate and graduate levels.
2018 Schulich Research Fellowship
2016 INFORMS ISS Research Award for studies on "Social Network Analytics: Adoption, Persuasion, Recommendation, and Knowledge Refreshing"
2014-2019 Junior Faculty Research Fund
2012 Doctoral Consortium, International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS)
2007 Outstanding Graduate Award, University of Science and Technology of China
2005 Guanghua Scholarship (merit-based) for excellence in postgraduate research, University of Science and Technology of China
Cook, W., Li, W., Li, Z., Liang, L. and Zhu, J. (2020), "Efficiency Measurement with Products and Partially Desirably Co-Products", Journal of the Operational Research Society, 71(2), 335-345.
Many operational processes that set out to create a specific set of products will often involve the creation of a set of associated co-products. The problem of interest is how to evaluate the efficiencies of a set of comparable such processes in the presence of both products and co-products. In particular, there has been an increasing interest in co-products that can be considered as playing a dual role as either outputs from or inputs to the process involved. Efficiency measurement in certain situations where both products and co-products are present can be addressed using data envelopment analysis (DEA). For example, reclaimed asphalt coming from the resurfacing of highways in various districts offers an opportunity to perform maintenance at a lower cost, when that reclaimed material serves as an input together with new or virgin materials. At the same time, there is an undesirable environmental impact when reclaimed asphalt (not reused) serves as an output. In the current paper, we develop a DEA-based methodology to evaluate the efficiency of maintenance activities in the presence of both products and co-products. The problem concerns how to examine co-products that can have positive value, up to a certain point, but beyond this point there are disposal/environmental costs that must be considered. We use our developed model to examine the efficiency of resurfacing operations in a set of 18 districts in a Canadian province.
Fang, X., Li, Z. and Sheng, O. (2018), "A Survey of Link Recommendation for Social Networks: Methods, Theoretical Foundations, and Future Research Directions", ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems, 9(1), 1-26.
Link recommendation has attracted significant attention from both industry practitioners and academic researchers. In industry, link recommendation has become a standard and most important feature in online social networks, prominent examples of which include “People You May Know” on LinkedIn and “You May Know” on Google+. In academia, link recommendation has been and remains a highly active research area. This article surveys state-of-the-art link recommendation methods, which can be broadly categorized into learning-based methods and proximity-based methods. We further identify social and economic theories, such as social interaction theory, that underlie these methods and explain from a theoretical perspective why a link recommendation method works. Finally, we propose to extend link recommendation research in several directions that include utility-based link recommendation, diversity of link recommendation, link recommendation from incomplete data, and experimental study of link recommendation.
Bai, X., Fang, X., Li, Z. and Sheng, O. (2017), "Utility-Based Link Recommendation for Online Social Networks", Management Science, 63(6), 1938-1952.Keywords
Link recommendation, which suggests links to connect currently unlinked users, is a key functionality offered by major online social networks. Salient examples of link recommendation include “People You May Know” on Facebook and LinkedIn as well as “You May Know” on Google+. The main stakeholders of an online social network include users (e.g., Facebook users) who use the network to socialize with other users and an operator (e.g., Facebook Inc.) that establishes and operates the network for its own benefit (e.g., revenue). Existing link recommendation methods recommend links that are likely to be established by users but overlook the benefit a recommended link could bring to an operator. To address this gap, we define the utility of recommending a link and formulate a new research problem—the utility-based link recommendation problem. We then propose a novel utility-based link recommendation method that recommends links based on the value, cost, and linkage likelihood of a link, in contrast to existing link recommendation methods that focus solely on linkage likelihood. Specifically, our method models the dependency relationship between the value, cost, linkage likelihood, and utility-based link recommendation decision using a Bayesian network; predicts the probability of recommending a link with the Bayesian network; and recommends links with the highest probabilities. Using data obtained from a major U.S. online social network, we demonstrate significant performance improvement achieved by our method compared with prevalent link recommendation methods from representative prior research.
Cook, W., Li, W., Li, Z. and Liang, L. (2017), "Evaluation of Ecological Systems and the Recycling of Undesirable Outputs: An Efficiency Study of Regions in China", Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, 60, 77-86.
A balance between environmental regulation and economic prosperity has become a major issue of concern to attain a sustainable society in China. This study proposes the application of Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) for measuring the efficiencies of the ecological systems in various regions of that country. The proposed approach differs from most of the previous ecological systems models in that we view it in a two stage setting; the first stage models the ecological system itself, and from an economic perspective, while the second stage (decontamination system) models water recycling as a feedback process, and the treatment of other undesirable outputs coming from the first stage. There, we separate polluting gases and water into two parts; one part is treated, while the other is discharged. The model considers two major desirable outputs from the first stage, namely Population and Gross Region Product by expenditure (GRP), as well as undesirable variables in the form of consumed water, and certain pollutants, namely nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and soot. At the same time, these undesirable outputs from the first stage are inputs to the second decontamination stage. As well, recycled water is fed back into stage 1. Thus, intermediate variables such as consumed water and waste gas emission simultaneously play dual roles of both outputs and inputs in the ecological system.
Cook, W., Guo, C., Li, W., Li, Z., Liang, L. and Zhu, J. (2017), "Efficiency Measurement of Multistage Processes: Context Dependent Numbers of Stages", Asia Pacific Journal of Operations Research, 34(6).
An important area of research involving the benchmarking methodology data envelopment analysis (DEA), concerns the modeling of multistage situations. In the usual multistage settings, it is generally assumed that all decision-making units (DMUs) have the same number and configuration of stages. However, in many real-world examples, this assumption does not hold. Consider, for example, a supply chain setting where for some DMUs, products are shipped directly from a supplier to a retailer (single-stage), while for other DMUs, products can be transshipped through distribution centers (two or more stages). In the current paper, we investigate an efficiency measurement situation where the DMUs exhibit a mix of single and two-stage setups. The particular case examined involves a set of high technology firms that can be thought of as falling into two groups; those firms where the output of interest is the annual revenue generated, and those that not only generate revenue, but as well invest a portion of that revenue in R&D. Firms in the first group can be viewed as being single-stage DMUs while those in the other group are of the two-stage type. The modeling complication here is that the set of DMUs do not explicitly form a homogeneous set of units. We develop a DEA-style model aimed at measuring efficiency in the presence of such nonhomogeneous two-group structures.
Fang, X., Hu, P., Li, Z. and Tsai, W. (2013), "Predicting Adoption Probabilities in Social Networks", Information Systems Research, 24(1).
In a social network, adoption probability refers to the probability that a social entity will adopt a product, service, or opinion in the foreseeable future. Such probabilities are central to fundamental issues in social network analysis, including the influence maximization problem. In practice, adoption probabilities have significant implications for applications ranging from social network-based target marketing to political campaigns; yet, predicting adoption probabilities has not received sufficient research attention. Building on relevant social network theories, we identify and operationalize key factors that affect adoption decisions: social influence, structural equivalence, entity similarity, and confounding factors. We then develop the locally-weighted expectation-maximization method for Naïve Bayesian learning to predict adoption probabilities on the basis of these factors. The principal challenge addressed in this study is how to predict adoption probabilities in the presence of confounding factors that are generally unobserved. Using data from two large-scale social networks, we demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method. The empirical results also suggest that cascade methods primarily using social influence to predict adoption probabilities offer limited predictive power, and that confounding factors are critical to adoption probability predictions.
Bai, X., Ge, Y., Li, Z. and Peng, Z. (Forthcoming), "What Will Be Popular Next? Predicting Hotspots inTwo-mode Social Networks", MIS Quarterly.Keywords
In social networks, social foci are physical or virtual entities around which social individuals organize joint activities, for example, places and products (physical form) or opinions and services (virtual form). Forecasting which social foci will diffuse to more social individuals is important for managerial functions such as marketing and public management operations. Considering diffusive social adoptions, prior studies on user adoptive behavior in social networks have focused on single-item adoption in homogeneous networks. We advance this body of research by modeling scenarios with multi-item adoption and learning the relative propagation of social foci in concurrent social diffusions for online social networking platforms. To be specific, we distinguish two types of social nodes in our two-mode social network model: social foci and social actors. Based on social network theories, we identify and operationalize factors that drive social adoption within the two-mode social network. We also capture the interdependencies between social actors and social foci using a bilateral recursive process, specifically, a mutual reinforcement process that converges to an analytical form. Thus, we develop a gradient learning method based on mutual reinforcement process (GLMR) that targets the optimal parameter configuration for pairwise ranking of social diffusions. Further, we demonstrate analytical properties of the proposed method such as guaranteed convergence and the convergence rate. In the evaluation, we benchmark the proposed method against prevalent methods, and we demonstrate its superior performance using three real-world data sets that cover adoption of both physical and virtual entities in online social networking platforms.
Cook, W., Li, W., Li, Z. and Zhu, J. (Forthcoming), "Efficiency Measurement for Hierarchical Situations", Journal of the Operational Research Society.
The measurement and monitoring of the efficiency of processes in organisations has become an important undertaking in today’s competitive environment. A fundamental tool for this undertaking is data envelopment analysis (DEA). The conventional setting for DEA views the decision-making unit (DMU) (school, hospital etc.) as a black box with inputs entering and outputs leaving. The current paper looks at a problem setting somewhat related to a multistage situation but pertaining to a particular form of hierarchical structure. Specifically, we examine a set of electric power units that act as sub-units or sub-DMUs, operating under the framework of set of power plants that play the role of DMUs. We develop a DEA-like methodology that evaluates, in a two-stage manner, both the efficiencies of the sub-units and of the aggregates of those sub-units (the plants). In so doing, the approach attempts to have the projected values of plant-level inputs and outputs match up with the corresponding aggregate values of the sub-unit projections, as is the case prior to projection to the frontier. Since such projections may in fact not match up as described, we introduce a goal-DEA methodology to minimise the extent of any failure to achieve this match up.
Courses TaughtMBAN 5330 Big Data Fundamentals and Applications
OMIS 4010 Artificial Intelligence Fundamental for Business
OMIS 3730 Data Management
OMIS 2010 Operations Management
Project Title Role Award Amount Year Awarded Granting Agency Project TitleData-Centric Decision Supports for Large-Scale Social Network Management RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$100,000.00 Year Awarded2017-2022 Granting AgencyNational Science and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant Project TitleAdvanced Machine Learning in FinTech Applications RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$200,000.00 Year Awarded2018 Granting AgencyIndustrial Sponsor