With $16.75 million in funding from the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute will launch a new interdisciplinary research center
devoted to the study of social and cognitive networks.
The Center for Social and Cognitive Networks is part of the newly created Collaborative
Technology Alliance (CTA) of the ARL, which includes a total of four nationwide
centers focused on different aspects of the emerging field of network science.
The Rensselaer center will be headed by Boleslaw Szymanski, Rensselaer's Claire
& Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor of Computer Science. Rensselaer
will receive $8.6 million of the $16.75 million in total funding to lead the
new center for its first five years. An additional $18.75 million is anticipated
from the ARL for a second phase, which would bring the total funding for the
interdisciplinary center to $35.5 million over 10 years.
Rensselaer will be joined by corporate and academic partners from IBM Corp.,
Northeastern University, and the City University of New York, and collaborators
from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University,
Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Maryland,
and Indiana University.
"Rensselaer offers a unique research environment to lead this important
new network science center," said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson.
"We have assembled an outstanding team of researchers, and built powerful
new research platforms. The team will work with one of the largest academic
supercomputing centers in the world – the Rensselaer Computational Center
for Nanotechnology Innovations – and the leading visualization and simulation
capabilities within our new Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. The
Center for Social and Cognitive Networks will bring together our world-class
scientists in the areas of computer science, cognitive science, physics, Web
science, and mathematics in an unprecedented collaboration to investigate all
aspects of the ever-changing and global social climate of today."
"A unique feature of this center will be its interdisciplinary approach,"
said Rensselaer Provost Robert Palazzo. "It has been a pleasure to work
with Professor Szymanski and the faculty in drawing upon the strengths of the
Rensselaer academic disciplines that will contribute to building knowledge in
this important emerging field. The center will capitalize on the platforms President
Jackson has put in place to support new levels of interdisciplinary research."
"Together with other centers of the CTA, we are creating the new discipline
of network science," said Szymanski. "The centers will be in the leading
position to define this new discipline in all its complexity. Rensselaer researchers
are very pleased to be a leading part of this transformation."
The Center for Social and Cognitive Networks will link together top social
scientists, neuroscientists, and cognitive scientists with leading physicists,
computer scientists, mathematicians, and engineers in the search to uncover,
model, understand, and foresee the complex social interactions that take place
in today's society. All aspects of social networks, from the origins of adversarial
networks to gauging the level of trust within vast social networks, will be
investigated within the center.
The center will enable stronger and more closely integrated collaborations
among the team of top interdisciplinary researchers in the emerging field of
network science that already existed informally, according to Szymanski.
"I explored those earlier links and collaboration when organizing the
team for the center," he said. "The impact of our work will be far-reaching.
We are in an entirely new world where Twitter, cell phones, and wireless communication
change the way we interact with each other. Together and with the support of
the ARL, the researchers in the center will be able to investigate how technology
enhances social interactions and how those technologies and relationships can
be used to better measure and understand people's interactions with each other."
Several Rensselaer faculty will take part in the center research. Szymanski
will be leading the interdisciplinary team that includes Senior Professor of
the Tetherless World Research Constellation and head of Information Technology
James Hendler; Professor of Cognitive Science and Acting Head of the School
of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Wayne Gray; Associate Professor of
Computer Science Adali Sibel; Associate Professor of Computer Science Malik
Magdon-Ismail; Professor of Computer Science Mark Goldberg; Professor of Mathematical
Sciences Chjan Lim; Professor of Decision Sciences & Engineering Systems
William Wallace; Associate Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
Gyorgy Korniss; and Research Associate Professor of Cognitive Science Michael
The center will study the fundamentals of social and cognitive networks and
their roles in today's society and organizations, including the U.S. Army. The
goal will be to gain a deeper understanding of these networks and build a firm
scientific basis in the field of network science. The work will include research
on large social networks, with a focus on networks with mobile agents. An example
of a mobile agent is someone who is interacting (e.g., communicating, observing,
helping, distracting, interrupting, etc.) with others while moving around the
environment. The U.S. Army and the societies within which it operates are primary
examples of such networks, according to Szymanski.
Five topics will be the focus of the center's research. One will be dynamic
processes in networks. Today's modern societies are supported by organically
evolving network structures, which contribute to the transport and storage of
various entities, including materials, energy, information, and people across
vast time and space. At the same time, technological advances provide tools
to better monitor social interactions and also influence social networks by
providing novel ways for humans to interact, Szymanski said. With this in mind,
the researchers will work to understand both the human interactions and the
underlying technological infrastructure they utilize. To do this, the researchers
will combine theoretical and computational tools from the disciplines of sociology,
political science, computer science, mathematics, and physics.