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Conference breaks new ground in highlighting the importance of Web Science

Published: 
1 October 2010
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A major two-day conference held this week at the Royal Society was a huge success for Web Science and for the organizers, Professor Nigel Shadbolt and Professor Dame Wendy Hall of the School of Electronics and Computer Science, Professor Bill Dutton of Oxford University, and Professor James Hendler, of Rensselaer Polytechnic University.

A capacity audience, with thousands also participating in the live Webcast, heard a succession of distinguished speakers demonstrate the impact of the Web on all parts of modern life. Speakers also considered different ways of modelling the Web, and the huge value that the Web is bringing to better knowledge and information about communications, networks and social relationships.

‘It’s very neat that the Royal Society chose Web Science for one of its 350th anniversary events,’ said Tim Berners-Lee. ‘We’ve only been talking about Web Science for four years, and this event is a measure of the impact we’ve had. The auditorium was packed with people from all disciplines, talking about the Web from many different angles, and this is what we need to be able study the Web.’ ‘Web Science: A new frontier’ was one of a small series of events chosen by the Royal Society to highlight the important scientific questions of the 21st century during its anniversary year.

Speakers included Nigel Shadbolt, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Bob May, Jennifer Chayes, Jon Kleinberg, Jianping Wu, David Robertson, Anne-Marie Kermarrec, David Karger, Pierre Levy, Manuel Castells, Helen Margetts, Luis von Ahn, Ramesh Jain, Noshir Contractor, Jonathan Zittrain, and Tim Berners-Lee.

Writing on BBC News Technology, Bill Thompson described the event as: ‘...a lot of fun and inordinately stimulating’. He noted: ‘As the conference progressed we moved from mathematical analyses to engineering, the social web and an exploration of the future of web technologies ... I first heard about web science three or four years ago, when I bumped into Professor Nigel Shadbolt of Southampton University and he pulled me to one side to tell me about his plans to model the growth of the web and how he believed it would help us begin to see the web as a complex ecosystem of humans and machines, worthy of study in its own right.

‘At the time I was sceptical, but I'm becoming more convinced that it is worth pulling together people from the many disciplines assembled at this conference and helping them to see how they all hold different pieces of the puzzle, and that the Web Science Trust is doing an important job at this critical time in the emergence of the networked world.’

The whole programme can be viewed on RoyalSociety.tv

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

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