Noshir Contractor on becoming ICA President

Contractor is the Jane S. & William J. White Professor of Behavioral Sciences in the McCormick School of Engineering, the Northwestern School of Communication, and the Kellogg School of Management, and director of the Science of Networks in Communities (SONIC) Research Group. He is a foremost researcher of network science, computational social science, and web science, specifically examining how social and knowledge networks form in business, scientific communities, healthcare, and space travel. 

Contractor’s post as ICA president will tap into his vast expertise in creating and nurturing diverse global networks.

“I consider ICA as being my perennial intellectual home since my days as a graduate student,” Contractor said. “It has given me a lot over the years, and I’ve seen it help a lot of people. And it has played a key role in conveying the significance of communication scholarship, to the broader scholarly community, to policy makers, and the public at large.”

The ICA is the preeminent professional organization for communication scholars and researchers from around the globe. It was founded over 50 years ago and comprises about 4,500 members in 80 countries. Building on its past accomplishments, Contractor wants to reimagine opportunities for growth, and as president-elect, he’s set a threefold agenda to expand representation, access, and unity within the ICA.

His first goal pertains to internationalization; while the ICA is indeed global, both leadership and membership is dominated by Americans, Europeans, and Australian/New Zealanders, annual conferences can be difficult to access for many members. There are relatively few members hailing from the Global South, Contractor said, and he is the first Indian and only the second Asian to be elected president. Reaching communication scholars from these underrepresented locations is of vital importance and will help to reposition the US as one of many, not among the only, hubs of communication research.

His second goal is to foster more cross-divisional scholarship. The number of subspecialties in the ICA has ballooned in the last decade, and communications scholars find themselves siloed in such specific divisions as mass, health, and political communication. Yet global problems—the coronavirus pandemic, for instance—are pandivisional and require more collaboration among scholars, Contractor noted.

His third goal is to leverage technologies to reimagine professional and pedagogical development, wherein members have access to more teaching and learning tools, a greater ability to create and share original content, and opportunities to build and grow mentoring networks.

“It is our goal to raise awareness of communication as a credible disciplinary landing ground for scholars,” he said. “I see my role as doing what I study, and that is building networks and nurturing those networks.”

Contractor joins the ICA Executive Committee now in his role as President Elect Select and will serve as President for the 2022-2023 year; he will remain part of the Executive Committee until mid-2026. He is the second sitting Northwestern professor to serve as President, the first being Charles Berger in 1995-1996. Ellen Wartella, the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Communication, served as president in 1992-1993, prior to joining Northwestern.

Contractor has held various posts within the organization and is an ICA fellow. He will succeed Mary Beth Oliver, Distinguished Professor of Media Studies at Penn State University’s College of Communications.

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Noshir Contractor elected president of ICA

WST Trustee and Web Science researcher Prof Noshir  Contractor has been elected as next president of the prestigious ICA ( International  Communications Association

Click here to see the details of the election.

About Noshir

Noshir S. Contractor is a Jane S. & William J. White Professor of Behavioral Sciences in the School of Engineering, School of Communication and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, USA. He is the director of Sonic Lab and a Trustee of the Web Science Trust.

About the ICA

(from current presidents introduction)

ICA started 70 years ago as a small organization of U.S.-based researchers. It has expanded to boast more than 6000 members in over 80 countries. Since 2003, we have been officially associated with the United Nations as a nongovernmental organization (NGO).

We publish five internationally renowned, peer-reviewed journals: Communication, Culture, and Critique (CCC), Communication Theory (CT), Human Communication Research (HCR), Journal of Communication (JoC), and the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (JCMC). Journal of Communication is the world’s top ranked communications journal on SCIMAGO, and Communication Theory is ranked #5. 

Wendy Hall features in BBC’s Inside Science

In an era of cyber-crime, misinformation, disinformation, state-sponsored attacks on rival countries’ infrastructure, government-imposed internet shutdowns in places like Eritrea and Kashmir, the World Wide Web is an increasingly dark and troubled place. Making sense of how the internet has changed from the democratic, sharing, open platform it was designed to be, and predicting what’s next, are the web scientists.

Professor Dame Wendy Hall talks with BBC’s Gareth Mitchell about the issues with the web and how we interact with it in our daily lives, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and why having web scientists is fundamental to how we learn to understand the Web.

Listen now



BBC Digital Planet Podcast

In a special edition podcast from the BBC’s Digital Planet, four key speakers from the 12th ACM Web Science Conference spoke with programme presenter Gareth Mitchell about Web Science and why it matters.

Featuring Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Vint Cerf, Carly Kind and JP Rangaswami, with expert commentary from Bill Thompson, the show highlights the importance of studying the Web and how it could be made better for humanity.

Listen to the podcast

Dame Wendy Hall appointed to Ada Lovelace Institute

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Dame Wendy Hall as Chair of the Ada Lovelace Institute.

Dame Wendy Hall DBE, FRS, FREng is one of the world’s foremost computer scientists and plays a leading role in shaping science and engineering policy and education in the UK and internationally. She is the UK’s first AI Skills Champion and Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, where she is also Executive Director of the Web Science Institute.

Dame Wendy was appointed by the Nuffield Foundation – the independent funder of the Ada Lovelace Institute – following an open recruitment process. Her three-year term as Chair will begin on 1 June 2020, succeeding Sir Alan Wilson, who retired as Executive Chair in February having led the Institute’s development phase.

Dame Wendy co-Chaired the UK government’s AI Review, published in 2017, and is a member of the AI Council, an independent expert committee providing advice to government and high-level leadership of the AI ecosystem in the UK. She is also Executive Director of the Web Science Trust, which has a global mission to support the development of research, education and thought leadership in Web Science.

During her distinguished career, Dame Wendy has been President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the British Computer Society, Senior Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology. She was a founding member of the European Research Council and Chaired the European Commission’s IST Advisory Group from 2010-2012. Her previous international roles include membership of the Global Commission on Internet Governance and the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council on the Digital Economy.

Sir Keith Burnett, Chair of the Nuffield Foundation said: ‘Dame Wendy Hall is one of the most influential scientists in the UK and the Nuffield Foundation is delighted to appoint her Chair of the Ada Lovelace Institute. Dame Wendy’s research has been a driving force in the development of her discipline, and through her senior leadership and advisory roles she has shaped science and technology policy both in the UK and internationally.

‘The Ada Lovelace Institute, although a relatively new organisation, is already providing a much-needed independent, evidence-led voice in the public debate on how data and AI should be used in the interests of people and society – most recently in relation to the use of technology in the public health response to the COVID-19 crisis. With Dame Wendy as Chair, I have every confidence the Institute will continue to make progress towards its goal of ensuring the benefits of data and AI are justly and equitably distributed.’

Dame Wendy Hall said: ‘I am very excited to be offered the opportunity to become Chair of the Ada Lovelace Institute. I have been very impressed with what the Institute has achieved since its inception and the commitment of the Nuffield Foundation to its development. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to work with Carly Kind and her team to help ensure the Institute continues to make a significant impact in the world of AI and data ethics by taking an evidence-led approach to the development of policy and practice in this area, which is something I am passionate about.’

Carly Kind, Director of the Ada Lovelace Institute said: ‘Dame Wendy brings to the Ada Lovelace Institute not only her expertise in computer science, but also her pioneering insights into the sociotechnical nature of AI and data-driven systems – a perspective that is critical to the Ada Lovelace Institute’s approach to policy and practice. We are honoured that Dame Wendy will lead our already august Board, deepening the Institute’s expertise in data science and building connections across academia, government and industry.’

About the Ada Lovelace Institute
Ada Lovelace Institute is a research institute and deliberative body dedicated to ensuring that data and AI work for people and society. In addition to its ongoing work programmes, the Ada Lovelace Institute is currently undertaking research projects to help inform understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on data and AI. Last month it published a rapid evidence review, Exit through the App Store?, to inform how the Government and the NHS adopts technical solutions to aid in the transition from the COVID-19 crisis.

WST Trustee featured in Royal Society Series

Professor Dame Wendy Hall, CEO of WST and head of Southampton’s WSTnet Lab the Web Science Institute (WSI) features in a new series of short films featuring Fellows of the Royal Society discussing their favourite scientists in history. In an interview with Professor Brian Cox, Dame Wendy talks about the life and works of Alan Turing. His contributions in both theoretical research and engineering have, Hall argues, provided a firm grounding for modern computing and data science.

“Turing’s ability to see what was going to be possible with computers, and how they were going to change the world, even before the first one was built, including the concept that computers might think and in time outperform human beings,” said Dame Wendy. “And of course, his intellectual ability to develop the theory of computation is still the theoretical underpinning of so much of what we do today.

Turin’s  work at Bletchley Park delivered vital elements to the solution for cracking intercepted coded messages from the Enigma machine during World War II that enabled the Allies to create an intelligence advantage. 

“He fought all his life to achieve what he wanted to achieve despite being ‘different’,” she continued. “He epitomises the battle for equality, diversity and inclusion that we are still struggling with today.”

Dame Wendy was recently named as the only academic to make the 10th annual UKtech50, a list of the most influential people in the UK tech sector published by Computer Weekly. She also appears in a list of the 30 ‘AI gurus’ in Europe to follow on Twitter by Sifted, a new website for the continent’s innovators and entrepreneurs.

Click here to view the film via the BBC iplayer.