Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been selected to join a new international network of prestigious world-class research laboratories to support the growing field of Web science research and education programs.
Rensselaer, which recently announced the first undergraduate Web science degree program in the United States, joins academic organizations from around the globe in the new Web Science Trust Network of Laboratories (WSTNet). The network combines many of the world's leading academic researchers in Web science, with new academic programs that will enhance the already growing influence of Web science.
According to WSTNet, the World Wide Web is transforming society. In order to understand what the Web is, engineer its future, and ensure its social benefit, the new interdisciplinary field of Web science has emerged to help map out the future and provide education for those studying the Web.
"Our lives are increasingly impacted by our connection to and use of data on the Web," says Deborah McGuinness, director of Rensselaer's Web Science Research Center and constellation professor in Rensselaer's Tetherless World Constellation. "Web science is the emerging interdisciplinary field of study supporting the foundations of the interconnected network of information called the Web. WSTNet forms an international body of world-class groups doing research on the current and future Web. As one of the 10 founding laboratories, Rensselaer's Web Science Center will take a leadership role in defining and growing the emerging area of Web science."
McGuinness is joined in the new laboratory by Rensselaer Professors James Hendler and Peter Fox, who are also chairs in the Institute's Tetherless World Constellation. Hendler is the assistant dean in charge of Rensselaer's new Information Technology and Web Science major, the first undergraduate Web Science program in the United States. Fox is a professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences, and leads interdisciplinary efforts in Informatics and e-Science. Students in Rensselaer's new Web science laboratory will investigate issues on the Web related to security, trust, privacy, content value, and the development of the Web of the future.
WSTNet is managed by the Web Science Trust, which brings together academics, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and policy-makers from around the world, with the goal of fostering multidisciplinary research to study the World Wide Web and describe the issues and challenges that will shape its future use and design.
Through a number of specific agreements and commitments with the Web Science Trust, the member labs will provide valuable support for the ongoing development of Web science.
"This is yet another important milestone in the progress of Web science," says Sir John Taylor, chair of the WST Trustee Board. "We are linking together a group of highly respected research laboratories which are all already making internationally leading contributions through their research. We look forward to what we can achieve together in the future, through a series of joint research programs, events, and collaborations."
Contributions from the labs will include the organization and hosting of summer schools, workshops, and meetings, including the WebSci conference series. The WSTNet Labs also will identify opportunities for new events and fundraising, all as part of the ongoing development of Web science.
The announcement of WSTNet was made at the WebSci10 conference last month in Raleigh, NC. Representatives of all the labs attended the conference, along with researchers from the many different disciplines that are involved in Web science.
"WSTNet will extend our global research capabilities in Web science as well as ensuring that the subject is built into university syllabuses," says Professor Dame Wendy Hall, managing director of WST and one of the founders of the discipline of Web science. "We will continue to extend the network to other research institutes which are already committed to Web science.
"We are delighted to welcome on board all the labs and look forward to further exciting developments in the future," Hall says.
The full list of founding WSTNet Labs is available at the WSTNet website.