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The University of Southampton

New Web Science Institute to explore how the Web will shape our future

Published: 9 June 2014

The University of Southampton officially launches its new Web Science Institute on Thursday 12 June to investigate how the World Wide Web is changing the world and the world is changing the Web.

To watch a live web stream of the launch, please visit:

The World Wide Web is the largest human information system in history, integrated into the everyday lives of billions of people across the planet, shaping how we do business, conduct our social lives and organise politically.

The University of Southampton has played a significant role in the development of the Web over the last 25 years, including the foundation of the innovative discipline of Web Science 10 years ago.

The event, at the prestigious Royal Society in London, will mark the formal launch of the Web Science Institute and opens with an exhibition showcasing its interdisciplinary Web Science research. This will include the Web Observatory and the unique SOCIAM project , which aims to create a greater understanding of ‘social machines’ including the World Wide Web.

Institute Directors Professor Dame Wendy Hall , Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt and Professor Susan Halford , together with Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, will join other leading figures from Web and internet science, including the University’s newly appointed Visiting Professor Liam Maxwell, Government Chief Technology Officer, in a panel-led discussion on future developments. Keynote presentations will also be delivered by JP Rangaswami, Chief Scientist at and Richard Susskind OBE, author, speaker and IT Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

Professor Dame Wendy Hall says: “As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Web and think about the role Web Science can play in helping to shape the future Web we want, it is a perfect time to be launching the Web Science Institute. We are looking forward to showcasing current Web Science work and discussing what it means to look at the world through a Web Science lens.”

Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt says: “The Web empowers individuals and communities. It is based on open standards and open participation. And now open data on the Web will drive even greater innovation. The Web Science Institute will help us understand these exciting opportunities.”

The Institute brings together world-leading multidisciplinary expertise from across the University to tackle the most pressing global challenges facing the World Wide Web and wider society today. It will focus the analytical power of researchers from disciplines as diverse as sociology and computer science, economics and psychology, law and humanities to understand and explain the Web by:

  • focusing on interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships;
  • demonstrating clear ambition, adaptability and innovation;
  • leveraging the visionary leadership and outstanding staff and student expertise across the University;
  • providing a platform for significant investment by Government and external partners;
  • showcasing unique and creative education programmes that set new standards internationally.

Notes for editors

1. The Web Science Institute Directors are Professors Dame Wendy Hall and Sir Nigel Shadbolt from Electronics and Computer Science; Professor Susan Halford from Social, Human and Mathematical Sciences; Professor Les Carr from the Web Science DTC; Dr Graeme Earl from Humanities; and Dr Lisa Harris from Business, Law and Art.

2. Senior academics, researchers and students from the University of Southampton will lead the Web Science Exhibition, which will include activities around the following inter-disciplinary projects:

  • Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training
  • The Web Science Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Southampton was established as part of a £250 million investment in the future of UK science and technology by the RCUK Digital Economy Programme.
    The Centre will train a cohort of 80 PhD students in a thorough understanding of how to innovate and create new forms of value through the Web, and prepares them to become agents of change in the digital economy.
    Through relationships with its industrial network it provides students with the expertise and leadership capacity to apply Web Science principles and produce a significant impact on the UK economy.

  • SoFWIReD
    SoFWIReD is a partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany in which we are developing a comprehensive platform for processing and analysing the Web of data, to support companies and governments and enable the transition towards collective intelligence by global industry.
  • Web Observatory
    The Web Science Trust has proposed a new class of scientific instruments (akin to microscopes or stethoscopes) designed to take measurements from the Web. These will be connected and operate globally, offering access to data sets and open analytics and will support a range of stakeholders from academia, government and business. The University of Southampton is committed to the development of the Web Observatory which will not only support Web Science research but will offer broader insight into the mechanisms of modern society and “social machines” on the Web.
  • Web Science Trust
    The Web Science Trust is a charitable body with the aim of supporting the global development of Web Science through a network of world-class laboratories known as WSTNet, hosted by the University of Southampton.
  • Open Data Institute
    The University of Southampton is the Honorary Founding Partner of the Open Data Institute, a world-leading organisation that pioneers new social and commercial value from open data.
    SOCIAM – the Theory and Practice of Social Machines – is a major research programme funded by the EPSRC, which aims to deliver greater insight into understanding and building the next generation of ‘social machines’. These are part-technical and part-human systems that are co-created and develop capabilities ranging from solving routine tasks to handling emergencies. Led by the University of Southampton, SOCIAM also includes the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh.

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