IIT Madras hosts the first RBCDSAI ‘Web Science Symposium’

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Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras hosted the first Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and AI (RBCDSAI) ‘Web Science Symposium,’ on campus today and tomorrow (25th & 26th Feb 2019).

The event is being held jointly with Web Science Trust (WST), an U.K.-based not-for-profit that supports global development of Web Science. The WST has established an international network, bringing together world-class research laboratories to support the Web Science Research and education programme. The program comprises lectures by trustees of web science trust and experts from around the country.

Delivering an address on ‘Web Science, AI and Future of the Internet,’ Prof. Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science, University of Southampton, U.K., and Executive Director, Web Science Institute, said, “Web architecture is a simple set of protocols, that gave rise to complex macro phenomena. Web is the co-creation between humans who put the content and the technology that enables it. The whole thing is designed for wonderful things but when it goes big, bad things will happen such as cyber bullying and fake news.”

She became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2009 UK New Year’s Honours list and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in the same year.

Further, Prof Wendy Hall said, “Web and Web Science have always involved Artificial Intelligence. The Web Services and Social Networks use AI to enhance performance and provide personalised services. The Web scientists use AI to do their research. Some of the important issues involving AI include ‘Will AI make us smarter,’ ‘job losses vs job creation and skills gap,’ and ‘data access issues such as privacy.’”

The goal of this symposium is to provide a venue for the Indian web science community to meet and exchange research ideas that could result in collaborations at this symposium and in the future events of this series. This edition of the symposium features lectures by eminent researchers from Indian academia and industry as well as some of the trustees of the web science trust from the U.K. and the U.S. A research poster session was also held with presentations from research scholars from around the country, as well as a panel discussion on fostering the web science community in India.

Speaking later, Prof. B. Ravindran, Head, RBC-DSAI, IIT Madras, said, “There are many India-specific challenges that need to be addressed by Web Science. While India has a nascent Web Science community, we need much larger nation-wide efforts to develop solutions tailored to the Indian society. This symposium is an attempt to bring both Indian academia and industry together to enable more active focus on web science research for India. The mission of RBC DSAI includes enabling and studying societal impact of AI and Data Science. The web is the vehicle through which much of AI reaches society at large. It is imperative for us to be involved in web science research and enablement.”

The World Wide Web is an unprecedented phenomenon that affects all aspects of modern life including communication, entertainment, and socialising choices. Web Science is an emerging discipline that studies all aspects of the World Wide Web, ranging from the technologies that enable communication on the web to the wider social impact of the web.

Some of the technologies include natural language processing, semantic web and ontologies, network science and analytics. RBCDSAI is launching this symposium series to serve as a platform for web science community in India to gather and exchange ideas.

Addressing the Symposium, Dr. Noshir S. Contractor, Jane S. & William J. White Professor of Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University, said, “India is a key venue that will shape socio-technical future of the Web. It is encouraging to see that interdisciplinary Web Science scholarship in India is rising up to the challenge – and the opportunity.”

Dr. Noshir Contractor will deliver a lecture on 26th February 2019 on ‘People Analytics: Understanding and Enabling the Future of Work.’ He is also a ‘Distinguished Alumnus Awardee’ of IIT Madras.

The Web Science Trust (WST) has assembled 20 world-class international research groups, founded a Summer School which is held in a different location each year, and runs a series of international teaching and research events including an ACM Web Science conference now in its 11th year.

The RBC-DSAI was founded in August 2017 in IIT Madras with a vision to expand and further the research, education and outreach activities in the areas of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. The RBC-DSAI is one of the few centres in the world for data science and AI applications in various engineering disciplines.

RBC-DSAI comprises faculty from several departments across the Institute who carry out research in various areas of data science and AI. The long-term vision is to become a world leader in data science research, where long-standing fundamental research problems, cutting across disciplines, are targeted and solved.