Web Science: A new lens for policy and planning

The original incarnation of the Web Science Trust was called the Web Science Research Institute (WSRI) and concerned itself chiefly with the creation of teaching and research models for an emerging science of the Web.

Over the ensuing decade the highly pervasive nature of the Web and the interdisciplinary nature of Web Science research and thought leadership has caused us to broaden our remit to advice and policy on diverse areas where the Web impacts modern society through global factors such as social media, AI, ML, Big Data and the creation/development of complex social machines which often transcend geo-political borders creating issues around jurisdiction and public policy.

 Our original publications on the nature and principles of Web Science can be found on our publications page but below is a publication issued on the 10th anniversary of Web Science which is both a retrospective around the assumptions and predictions made back at the start and also a piece re-affirming the need to continue to support and develop this new discipline of studying the Web of humans and machines at global scale.


Observing the world through the Web

Observing the world through the Web

WST and our trustees and partners have worked with government groups in the US, UK and European Union as well as businesses and the third sector internationally. We offer insight into the importance and nature of Web Science and the need to maintain a diverse and well-resourced capacity in both the public and private sectors to understand the opportunities and threats which result from technologies and technological effects which emerge much faster than social policies and laws can typically adapt.

The Web Science Manifesto
(Web Science@10)

  • Wendy Hall (University of Southampton)
  • Jim Hendler (Rensellaer Polytechnic Institute)
  • Steffen Staab (Universität Koblenz-Landau)

Download the full paper

Twenty-seven years ago, one of the biggest societal changes in human history began slowly when the technical foundations for the World Wide Web were defined by Tim Berners-Lee. Ever since, the Web has grown exponentially, reaching far beyond its original technical foundations and deeply affecting the world today – and even more so the society of the future. We have seen that the Web can influence the realization of human rights [Wagner, 2016] and even the pursuit of happiness1 . The Web provides an infrastructure to help us to learn, to work, to communicate with loved ones, and to provide entertainment. However, it also creates an environment affected by the digital divide between those who have and those who do not have access. Additionally, the Web provides challenges we must understand if we are to find a viable balance between data ownership and privacy protection, between over-whelming surveillance and the prevention of terrorism. For the Web to succeed, we need to understand its societal challenges including increased crime, the impact of social platforms and socio-economic discrimination, and we must work towards fairness, social inclusion, and open governance.


Ten years ago, the field of Web Science was created to explore the science underlying the Web from a socio-technical perspective including its mathematical properties, engineering principles, and social impacts [Berners-Lee et al, 2006].

Ten years later, we are learning much as the interdisciplinary endeavour to understand the Web’s global information space continues to grow.