Social Data Science Lab awarded funding

16 November 2016

Computer and social scientists at Cardiff have received a half a million-pound grant to study big data together in the University’s Social Data Science Lab.

The Lab, established in 2015 to support social data analytics and make them accessible among the academic, private, public and third sectors, has been awarded the funding by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The grant will fund the Lab’s core activities over the next three years, enabling a new Lab Research Fellow, dedicated computer and social scientist time to develop new big data tools, as well as an advanced training programme to educate researchers across different sectors on how to use quantitative and qualitative techniques to analyse new and emerging forms of online data.

Dr Pete Burnap, Co-Director of the Lab and Social Computing Research Priority Area lead in the School of Computer Science & Informatics said: “The potential for world leading computational social science research that uses new forms of data is currently limited by the lack of existing reliable research infrastructure, such as software tools designed for social scientists. This core funding will allow Lab staff to dedicate the required time to develop and test these tools in research and policy contexts.”

The funding will enable the Lab to formalise its research and training partnerships with a range of ESRC investments, including WISERD and ADRC Wales, as well as provide resources to support its existing research partnerships with the Metropolitan Police Service, Office for National Statistics, Food Standards Agency, Welsh Government, and US Department of Justice.

Fellow Co-Director of the Lab, Professor Matt Williams from the School of Social Sciences added: “The majority of individuals currently under 20 years of age in the Western world were ‘born digital’ and will not recall a time without access to the Internet. Combined with the migration of the ‘born analogue’ generation onto the Internet, fueled by the rise of social media, we have seen the exponential growth of online spaces for the mass sharing of opinions and sentiments. No study of contemporary society can ignore this dimension of social life. However, there currently exist methodological and infrastructural barriers that prevent the widespread use of ‘big social data’ in the social sciences, and this new funding will help the Lab realise its mission to democratise access to big social data among the academic, public and third sectors.”

The Social Data Science Lab forms part of Cardiff University's Data Innovation Research Institute and will be located within the Social Science Research Park (SPARK). The Lab builds on the successful COSMOS programme of research that ran between 2011 and 2015 and forms part of the £64 million Big Data Network for the Social Sciences. It brings together social, computer, political, health, statistical and mathematical scientists to study the methodological, ethical, theoretical, and technical dimensions of New and Emerging Forms of Data in social and policy contexts. Lab Directors Dr. Pete Burnap and Professor Matthew Williams were appointed to the ESRC