Northwestern Engineering’s Noshir Contractor has been named Executive Director of the Web Science Trust (WST), effective May 1, 2024.

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 leading researcher of network science, computational social science, and web science, explicitly examining how social and knowledge networks form in business, scientific communities, healthcare, and space travel.

Contractor has served for the past 13 years as a director and member of the WST Board of Trustees, a collection of leadingweb science researchers, technology thinkers, and social entrepreneurs who help shape and advance web science’s research and teaching agenda.

Contractor assumes his new role at a pivotal inflection point in the web science field. With the rapid emergence of generative AI, the Web stands to play an even greater role in shaping society.

“As someone who has dedicated their career to studying the Web and its profound impact on our world, I am honored and excited to take on the role of Executive Director of the Web Science Trust,” Contractor said. Over the past 15 years, we have witnessed how the Web has served as the foundation for the meteoric rise of social media, transforming the way we connect, communicate, and share information on a global scale. We are deeply indebted to Wendy Hall for her visionary leadership ofthe Web Science Trust as we engaged with these momentous developments. We now have an extraordinary opportunity to shape a future where the Web and AI can synergistically benefitan equitable and inclusive humanity.”

WST is a charity that promotes the understanding of the Webthrough education and research in web science. WSTcoordinates the Web Science Network (WSTNet) of leading web science laboratories worldwide. The group’s origins date back to its initial education-focused iteration, the Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI), established in 2006. Since then, the organization has strived to articulate a research agenda for the broader scientific community, coordinate the development of web science educational material and curricula, and engage in thought leadership for this emerging field. 

Contractor’s appointment was announced at the 16th annual ACM Web Science Conference held in Stuttgart, Germany, May 21, 2024.

“It’s time for someone new to bring fresh ideas and energy at a time when the Web Science Trust’s work is more important than ever,” said Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, who has served as WST’s Executive Director since 2010. “Noshir is one of the world’s leading researchers in network and web science with a strong history of supporting and working with the Web Science Trust. I look forward to working with him as he takes the organization forward in this new era of AI as it becomes accessible to everyone through the medium of the Web.”

A former president and Fellow of the International Communication Association (ICA), Contractor’s other honors include being named a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Academy of Management, and the Network Science Society. He also received the Fellows Book Award from ICA, and the Simmel Award — a lifetime achievement for major contributions to the study of social networks — from the International Network for Social Network Analysis.

SUMMARY: Contractor, an expert in web science, network science, and computational social science, will help lead the UK-based charity’s efforts to promote understanding, through education and research, of how the Web shapes society and how society, in turn, shapes the Web.