Spring Newsletter

With major disruption following the Coronavirus outbreak we’ll be considering the impact that networks (of people and of (dis)information) are having and the issue of network resilience highlighted by panic buying/selling. In this edition we’ll talk about our newest WSTNet Lab in India and link to spotlight interviews with a WSTNet Student and one of our WSTNet Labs.  

In This Issue:

Coronavirus – A Networks Perspective 

WebSci’20 Southampton: An Update

WSTNet Lab Profile: Inria

PhD Profile: Simon Jonsson (Southampton)

Saying Hello/Goodbye

Recent Publications

Recent and Upcoming Events

Coronavirus – A Networks Perspective

Whilst at its heart the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and the associated COVID-19 pandemic, is a biological event, the impacts and reporting around it have social impact in many ways, for example in the ways we react to the event, cope with it, and judge our governments and health services.

Earlier this week several major social media providers including Google, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks released a joint statement (https://about.fb.com/news/2020/03/coronavirus/#joint-statement) in support of handling fake news and mis-information related to COVID-19. Our perceptions of the outbreak (as much as any objective facts) have led to fake cures, conspiracy theories, stock market panic selling (even across normally negatively correlated instruments) and panic buying of, and price gouging (profiteering) around, hard-to-find supplies; all of which have figured prominently in recent news reports. A notable common thread running through many of these issues (and also the evidence-based approach to modelling the spread of the virus) is the perspective that many of them could be considered to be networks: epidemiological networks, supply-chain networks, financial networks, social networks, academic/business networks and “social machines” (the interaction between human and machine actors in large networks). Command-and-control hierarchies are simply overwhelmed by the movement of information at scale through these networks.

Click here to read the full article.

WebSci’20 Southampton: An Update

ACM Web Science (now in its 12th year) will be hosted by the Web Science Institute (WSI) at the University of Southampton July 7th-July 10th 2020. With so many live events already cancelled or under review, the organisers have stressed that several alternatives were considered to both support the work of the Web Science research community whilst safeguarding the health of its members.

The conference committee led by Prof. Dame Wendy Hall has announced:

“ Given the situation in relation to Coronavirus (COVID-19), the ACM Web Science Conference will this year run as an online conference, where presenters will be able to present their work remotely to the online participants. Once we have the infrastructure plans in place we will publish the registration fees, which will be nominal. We will provide updates via this website and mailing lists.

The Conference Committee sends its best wishes to you and your families during this challenging time.”

The conference website is available with information about the event and readers will be updated with details and advice as the situation develops.

WSTNet Lab Profile: Inria

Inria is the French national research institute for digital science and technology. World-leading research and technological innovation are an integral part of its DNA. Inria’s 3,500 researchers and engineers put their passion for digital technology to work in nearly 200 project teams, most of which are joint teams with our academic partners, including major research universities and the CNRS. They explore new fields, often in collaboration with different disciplines and industrial partners, with the aim of meeting ambitious challenges.

As a technology institute, Inria supports the development of numerous software products, sometimes making a global impact via the open source model. Because technology start-ups are powerful channels for research outcomes, Inria also supports entrepreneurial risk-taking and start-up creation (Deeptech). Firmly established on major university campuses and in industrial ecosystems, the Institute is at the heart of the digital revolution.

Click Here to see the full article.


Fabien Gandon is a Research Director and Senior Researcher at Inria, France.

Fabien’s PhD in 2002 pioneered the joint use of distributed artificial intelligence (AI) and Semantic Web to manage a variety of data sources and users above a Web architecture. Then, as a research project leader at Carnegie Mellon University (USA), he proposed AI methods to enforce privacy preferences in querying and reasoning about personal data. In 2004, recruited as a researcher at Inria, he started to study models and algorithms to integrate social media and knowledge-based AI systems on the Web while keeping humans in the loop. In 2012 he became the representative of Inria at W3C and founded Wimmics, a joint research team on bridging social and formal semantics on the Web with AI methods. In 2017 he established and became the director of the joint research laboratory between Inria and the QWANT search engine. 

Fabien remarked :

“In Web Science, we should build our research program as a joint effort with two research fields born in the 50s: “AI” for Artificial Intelligence and “IA” for Intelligence Amplification and Intelligence Augmentation. The Web Science research agenda must account for the fact that the long term potential of the Web is to augment and link all forms of intelligence.”

Click here to read the full article
Click here to visit the Inria website
WSTNet Student Profile: Simon Jonsson

Simon is completing his second year at the Web Science Institute (WSI) at the University of 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.

Simon’s take on Web Science from his own experience:
“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.”

Click here to read the full article

Say Hello – Wave Goodbye

WSTNet continues to grow steadily and we are delighted to announce that the IIIT Bangalore is the latest Lab to join the network indicating the growing interest in Web Science in India. 

  • Our Koblenz Lab director, Prof. Steffen Staab, has moved to the University of Stuttgart and his replacement will be announced in the next newsletter. 
  • Prof. Yike Guo, Lab Director for Imperial, is working at the University of Hong Kong and will be supported by his Data Science Lab team in his absence.
Recent Publications

Mireille Hildebrandt & Kieron O’Hara (eds.), Life and the Law in the Era of Data-Driven Agency, 

Sarah J. Jackson, Moya Bailey & Brooke Foucault Welles, #HashtagActivism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice, 

Steven Levy, Facebook: The Inside Story,

Joanne McNeil, Lurking: How a Person Became a User, 

Fil Menczer, Santo Fortunato & Clayton A. Davis, A First Course in Network Science, 

Daniel Susskind, A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond, 

Anna Wiener, Uncanny Valley: A Memoir, 

See also two interesting new policy interventions: 

The new European Commission has already marked out a strong focus on issues to do with digital technology, developing (and defining?) an EU fit for the digital age. For the EU’s Digital Strategy, see 

Meanwhile, a new report by Diane Coyle and colleagues for the Nuffield Foundation in the UK has examined the complex problem of how we put a value on the data that we create and exchange. See their literature review and the policy implications at 

Head over to the website to see more Web Science publications
Recent and Upcoming Events
February 12th 2020.  Brave Conversations in Bengaluru, India.
The new Web Science Lab at IIIT Bangalore ran a lively event together with students from the WSI, Southampton as part of the Brave Conversations series.

July 6th-7th 2020.  Brave Conversations in Southampton, UK. 
Brave Conversations has become a global event organised by Intersticia running short courses all across the globe for businesses, government and individuals to come together to discuss both the Why and the How of technology in the context of social goods and ethical choices.

July 7th-10th 2020.  12th Annual ACM WebSci’20 Conference at University of Southampton. Details and updates are available on the website and can be found here.
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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