Social Data Science Lab awarded Big Data grant
14 November 2016
The Social Data Science Lab, part of Cardiff University's Data Innovation Research Institute, has been made part of the £64M Big Data Network for the Social Sciences via a half a million-pound grant
The Lab, established in 2015, brings together social and computer scientists to study the methodological, ethical, theoretical, and technical dimensions of New and Emerging Forms of Data in social and policy contexts. Its empirical social data science programme is complemented by a focus on the development of new methodological tools and data solutions for academic and public sectors to enhance the UK’s capability in big social data analytics. They are assisting several government departments, law enforcement agencies, private corporations and charities to realize the potential of these data via RCUK research projects and knowledge transfer partnerships.
The new grant from the Economic and Social Research Council will fund the core activities of the Lab over the next 3 years, providing funds for critical staffing needs and an advanced training programme in social data science analytics to educate researchers on how to use both quantitative and qualitative techniques to analyse new and emerging forms of online data.
This funding will also see the Lab formalise its strategic research and training partnerships with a range of ESRC investments, including WISERD, ADRC Wales, CLOSER, NCRM, UK Data Archive and the Big Data Network while providing resources to support its existing research partnerships with governmental policing agencies such as the Metropolitan Police Service, London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, Department for International Development, Welsh Government, and the US Department of Justice.
Co-Director of the Lab, Professor Matthew Williams from the School of Social Sciences commented: “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.”
Professor Williams was recently nominated for the ‘Upstanding Research & Innovation Award 2016’ in the National Hate Crime Awards based on his extensive and influential work with the Social Data Science Lab, particularly for his recent work on cyberhate and his interest in tackling hate online. The award is for researcher or academic department at a University who has brought significant awareness, as well as new concepts and innovative ideas to the hate crime cause.
Dr. Pete Burnap, Co-Director of the Lab and Senior Lecturer in the School of Computer Science and Informatics, said: “New forms of digital online social data, handled by computational methods, allow social and computer scientists to gain meaningful insights into contemporary social processes at unprecedented scale and speed. How we marshal these new forms of data present key challenges for the researchers. 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”.