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.

WSTnet Student Profile: Simon Jonsson

Simon is completing his second year at the Web Science Institute (WSI) at Southampton where he is working towards a PhD in Web Science on “Increasing engagement and learning performance in educational apps”.

We spoke to Simon about his interest in enhanced learning techniques and how he hopes to contribute towards improved learning experiences at a time when many are relying so heavily on remote and on-line learning approaches. 

Q. Simon tell us about your research topic

A. Well the research is concerned with the design of approaches/elements which increase both the enjoyment and efficiency of the e-learning experience through the creation of a state of “flow”. When we are in state of flow we are typically less distracted, more receptive to the content/material and typically report enjoying the experience more than when not in flow.

Q. Are you looking to make learning more enagaging/enjoyable through gamification?

A. Well thats just the point. Gamification appears to be partly distracting: drawing attention to another aspect of the experience rather than focussing on the experience itself so users are enjoying the gamerather than enjoying the learning. This can be reflected in the speed and depth of learning and ties the sucess of the learning to the sucess of the gamified elements.

Q. How are you testing your approach?

A. Whilst the final approach can be expanded to many factors and combinations I have started in the pilot phase with a simple A/B matrix in which four groups are exposed (or not) to a learning design feature giving rise to AB, A’B, AB’, A’B’ (A and B, NOT A and B, A and NOT B, NOT A and NOT B).

We then test the participants for the length and regularity of engagement and adminisiter tests around the learning and retention. In this way we have a simple model to evaluate the impact of a single feature or feature combination on engagement and performance.

The first phase has used local volunteers whilst the main study will involve releasing the app to the Google Play store to recuit a much larger number of participants.

Q. Have any of the results or insights surprised you so far?

A. One thing which did surprise me was the existence of a large body of education/learning theory which does not seem to be used or implemented in practice. For example, spaced learning was a theory put forward by Ebbinghaus in 1885 and which even today is not always implemented in learning apps.

Q. How will your research continue?

A. Once we have results from a wider Google Play experiment (based on Spanish Language learning) we will review applying any insights to other areas of learning and app design.


Q.  Have any aspects of Web Science been useful here?

A. The most significant aspect of Web Science has been the interdisciplinarity – the opportunity to work with aspects of education coming from a background in Maths and Psychology. That interdisciplinarity is so important.

Good luck with the rest of your research and thanks for taking part.

Summer 2019 Newsletter

Following a successful ACM Web Science conference in Boston, we would like to welcome you to the first edition of the Web Science Trust (WST) Newsletter. We will be bringing you a summary of notable news and upcoming events at WST HQ and throughout the WST Network.

Our goal is to help WST supporters get the most from our service by providing news and information about publications and opportunities to meet up.

In this edition, we will be featuring our newest WSTNet Lab and meeting one of our PhD students who will talk about her work. We’ll be looking at coverage of the Web’s 30th anniversary, reviewing recent publications, including an important new book on Social Machines. We’ll sketch out recent and upcoming events, looking back at the recent ACM Web Science Conference in Boston and forward to ACM WebSci 2020 which will be hosted in the UK by the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton.

In this issue:

ACM Web Science Conference
The 30th Anniversary of the Web
Professor Susan Halford on Digital Futures
WSTNet Lab Profile: IIT Madras
PhD Profile: Ipek Baris, WeST University of Koblenz-Landau
Recent Publications
Recent and Upcoming Events

ACM WebSci Conference

ACM WebSci 2019 has just wrapped up at Northeastern University and we want to congratulate everyone who put in so much work to make it possible and also everyone who delivered papers, posters and workshops during the conference. 

It was a great event in beautiful Boston and we are pleased to announce that the 12th WebSci conference is coming to the UK in 2020 with next year’s event to be hosted by the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton.

30th Anniversary of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee ambitiously called his fledgling system a “world-wide” web even though at the start it probably didn’t feel very global. 30 years on, his vision of connecting information across servers, networks and locations has become nearly as indispensable for government, business and academia as power and light. We can read Tim’s own account in his book “Weaving the Web” including the famous anecdote of his boss’ pithy summary of the original proposal for the Web: “Vague…but exciting!!”

How fortunate, Tim commented at a recent 30th Anniversary talk, that he hadn’t chosen instead to write “Exciting …but vague!!. Click here for more links to 30th Anniversary pieces.

Professor Susan Halford on Digital Futures

In a world where society and technology interact to create rapid change, writers, scientists and individuals alike continue to ask how exactly will this affect our futures? This question is one of the core principles of Web Science and was the focus of a recent presentation at Southampton from Susan Halford (Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol). To read more about the presentation follow this link.   

WSTNet Lab: IIT Madras

Our new feature series profiling the labs of WSTNet kicks off with a look at the Indian Institute of Technology at Madras. IIT Madras is the latest lab to join WSTNet. Head over to the website to read more about the lab or read about the Web Science Symposium held in Madras earlier this year   

PhD Profile: Meet Ipek Baris

Meet Ipek Baris – a first year PhD student at WeST University of Koblenz-Landau, who is part of our new series showcasing the work of Web Science PhD students across the globe. Ipek’s research is sponsored by the Co-Inform project of the European Union. The project aims to research and develop tools and methodologies for combating online misinformation. Read about Ipek’s research here   

Recent Publications

  • Halford, Susan, Hendler, James A., Ntoutsi, Eirini, Staab, Steffen (2019). 10 Years of Web Science: Closing The Loop (Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop 18262). Schloss Dagstuhl (vol 8, issue 6) 173-198pp.

Head over  to see more Web Science publications

Recent and Upcoming Events 

11th ACM Conference on Web Science 2019 – (June 30th – July 3rd), Boston, MA, USA

Brave Conversations – (July 16th), London, UK

WSTNet Web Science Summer School 2019 – (September 9th – 13th), University of Southampton, UK

Thank you for subscribing to the WST Newsletter. We look forward to seeing you in the next edition. If you have any events, courses and news that you would like to share across the WST network please do get in touch.

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If you want to let the team know about news, events and courses that you’d like us to feature on the website and on social media send us an email using:  

Events: events@webscience.org

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News: news@webscience.org

We hope you enjoy the new Newsletter – please don’t hesitate to let us know what you think and if we can improve our service.  Send us an email to info@webscience.org.

Best wishes,

Web Science Trust Team


A New Web Science Book: The Theory & Practice of Social Machines

A new book “The Theory and Practice of Social Machines” has been published by Springer. This is an exciting new output from the SOCIAM project in which the University of Southampton was a partner, together with the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh

Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Executive Director of the Web Science Trust and Executive Director of the Web Science Institute, one of the twenty WSTNet Labs, is one of the authors. She commented:

“The concept of Social Machines is a powerful way of looking at the socio-technical systems enabled by the Web, such as Wikipedia. It is essential to think about them in an interdisciplinary way – social interactions and technological processes co-create systems that can be very empowering for communities, enabling them to define their own problems and seek solutions. This is exactly the sort of sociotechnical research issue that Web Science was designed to pursue.”

The term “Social Machines” was introduced by Tim Berners-Lee in 1999. Today we see them as networks of people and devices at scale, their behaviour co-constituted by human participants and technological components. They harness the power of the crowd, with everyone able to contribute – to document situations, cooperate on tasks, exchange information, or simply to play. Existing social processes may be scaled up, and new social processes enabled, to solve problems, augment reality, create new sources of value, or disrupt existing practice.

One of Dame Wendy’s co-authors, Dr Kieron O’Hara, associate professor of electronics and computer science at Southampton, added:

“The spread of social machines has been amazing, and the research programme was quite prescient. When SOCIAM began in 2012, there was relatively little to study. Now they are very common indeed. The book describes in detail examples from citizen science and healthcare to music and mathematics. We even consider the augmented reality game Pokémon Go!

Partnership and interdisciplinarity have been key, and to that end we’ve benefited greatly from our collaboration with SOCIAM partners at the University of Oxford Computer Science Department, the Oxford e-Research Centre, and the University of Edinburgh Informatics Department. In particular, we should emphasise that our book distils the excellent work of dozens of researchers across the project, although there could only be four names on the cover.”

The new book is the fullest and most complete discussion of social machines yet written. It is authored by Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt (Trustee of the Web Science Trust), Dr Kieron O’Hara, Professor David De Roure and Professor Dame Wendy Hall and is in the Lecture Notes in Social Networks series. It describes the set of tools and techniques developed within SOCIAM for investigating, constructing and facilitating social machines, considers the ethical issues relating to privacy and trust, and speculates on future research trends.

The SOCIAM project, which was directed by Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, ran from 2012-18 and was funded by the EPSRC.