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Southampton Uni and MIT pit wits against mysteries of the web

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MIT and the University of Southampton are to collaborate on research into the social, technical, and scientific challenges presented by the web. The aim of the work is ultimately to establish "web science" as a new scientific discipline.

The Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) is a long-term venture that will, the institutions say, provide a global forum for scientific and scholarly collaboration on research into the web.

"As the web celebrates its first decade of widespread use, we still know surprisingly little about how it evolved, and we have only scratched the surface of what could be realised with deeper scientific investigation into its design, operation and impact on society," said Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and a founding director of WSRI.

He said the initiative will allow researchers to take the web seriously as an object of scientific enquiry.

The research will seek to answer questions such as: How do we access information and assess its reliability? By what means may we assure its use complies with social and legal rules? How will we preserve the web over time?

Professor Wendy Hall, head of school at Southampton University School of Electronics and Computer Science and also a founding director of WSRI, argues that a new type of graduate is required to deal with the implications the web has for science and industry.

"We are seeing evidence of this with major internet companies and research institutions lamenting the fact that there are simply not enough people with the right mix of skills to meet current and future employment demands," she explained.

"In launching WSRI, one of our ultimate aims is to address this issue." ®

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