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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute


Research lies at the heart of the WSI's success, positioning it as a world leader in Web Science knowledge and innovation and fuelling our extensive education, training, enterprise and impact activities.

We effectively draw together world-leading researchers from across the University of Southampton in a range of interdisciplinary research activities. Our members include researchers from the social and computational sciences, the humanities, medicine and health sciences, business and law and the natural sciences.

This distinctive interdisciplinarity allows us to establish novel socio-technical approaches to tackle the major challenges facing society and support industry, government and the third sector.

We also head major international research programmes that are funded by UK Research Councils, the EU, government and industrial partners.

We have research expertise in:

Digital Futures

Our research focuses on how the digital transformations of today are shaping the future, and how we might intervene in these processes to  support an inclusive and productive outlook for all. Our work contributes directly to understanding digital inequalities and to supporting the processes of digital inclusion, democratic innovation, and civic participation, and explores how new combinations of humans and machines might contribute to this, using examples such as Wikipedia.

Ethics, Privacy and Security

We investigate the issues arising from protecting people's privacy and security in an online environment, including the principles and practice of data protection law and innovative approaches to understanding cybercrime and supporting cybersecurity. We are exploring fair and trustworthy means of data sharing, ethical questions relating to the development and deployment of autonomous weapons systems, understanding algorithmic bias and accountability and the broader ethical and epistemological questions of digital data, algorithmic decision making and artificial intelligence.

Health and Well-being

We research how the Web shapes health and well-being both positively – such as extending the information available and improving access to  services – and negatively - such as online harassment and privacy breaches. Our researchers explore the opportunities for interventions in human behaviour through the development of mobile phone and social networking technologies for health interventions, including weight management,  stroke rehabilitation and cochlear implant home care.


WSI Executive Director, Professor Dame Wendy Hall, recently led the UK Government’s recent Artificial Intelligence review, which now underpins  strategic interventions to support skills development and economic growth in this area. The Centre for Machine Intelligence is developing a coherent approach to research and technology transfer in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous systems, bringing together  researchers to work with policy makers and experts from social sciences and law to ensure that the development of machine intelligence benefits  all.

New Forms of Knowledge

We examine how new forms of data and computational systems can be combined with theories and methods from across disciplines to create new  forms of knowledge. We take an interdisciplinary approach to working with digital data, developing robust methodologies to make this useful and  actionable for researchers, government, industry and civil society. We are at the forefront of research on ‘social machines’ and are pioneering  methods to capture, store, manage, analyse and visualise large-scale, complex and diverse data from multiple sources in the Southampton Web Observatory.

Digital Economy

We explore how the Web and web data can be used to support growth and innovation across the economy. We work closely with a range of partners, from the local to the global, across sectors from the creative industries to retail, the public sector to cutting edge digital  start-ups, with particular attention to data integration, real time analytics, digital marketing, and growing the creative industries. We continually consider the implications for the skills, careers and the labour market.


We started the first free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Web Science and lead a suite of online courses in Data Science, as part of the Southampton Data Science Academy. Our researchers examine how the Web can be harnessed to improve access to education and develop new pedagogical approaches, including intelligent tutoring.

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