IST researchers at the forefront of the "science of science"

Researchers at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), including C. Lee Giles, David Reese Professor of Information Sciences and Technology, and Dashun Wang, assistant professor of IST, are at the forefront of an emerging interdisciplinary initiative to study the "science of science."

Modern scientific research has grown massively over the past several decades. Ever-expanding quantities of research articles, informal text on the web, patents, products and associated websites with hundreds of millions of information-rich objects have become "big data." Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), is at the forefront of an emerging interdisciplinary initiative to study the "science of science."


"How do we make use of big data to better understand how science works?" aked Dashun Wang , an assistant professor at IST.


To address the issue, Wang recently hosted a two-day symposium, in collaboration with the University of Chicago , primarily supported by the National Science Foundation’s Science of Science and Innovation Policy program. The goal of the symposium was to bring together different parties to form discussions on the science of science and its potential to transform the practice of science, the redesign of institutions and the tuning of science policy.


The International Symposium on Science of Science at the Library of Congress was held in Washington, D.C in late March. The attendees included leading researchers from various disciplines, program directors from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. defense and intelligence community, publishers such as the Nature Publishing Group , Science , and Elsevier ; as well as companies that produce and aggregate data -- the input of science of science research -- such as Microsoft and Thomson Reuters.


Many IST faculty members took part in the event. C. Lee Giles , David Reese Professor at IST and director of the CiteSeerX project, delivered the closing talk the first day of the conference on mining scholarly big data and discussed how CiteSeerX and its associated information extraction methods for large scholarly data sets enables various metadata that are not usually available to be used for science discovery and analysis. For example, CiteSeerX name disambiguation algorithms have been successfully applied to all inventor names in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database. Professor John Bagby presented his joint work with assistant professor Jens Grossklags on patent analyses. Fred Fonseca , associate professor of IST,  discussed his work on the history of science in the era of big data.


Wang, who received a doctorate in physics in 2013 from Northeastern University , was a research staff member at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center prior to joining Penn State. At the College of IST, he leads a group of researchers that takes a multidisciplinary approach--combining statistical physics, computer science and computational social science--to exploit the opportunities and promises offered by big data.


"Through the lens of new and increasingly available large-scale datasets, we hope to use and develop tools of network science to help improve the way in which we understand the interconnectedness of the social, technical and business world around us," Wang said.


I n recognition of his efforts, Wang was awarded a Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) grant through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) earlier this year. According to Wang, science of science no longer holds the goal of evaluating and improving the system of science. Rather, he said, researchers from a wide range of disciplines have begun to use science as an observatory to probe social phenomena that are more universal than the institutions of science themselves. The availability of theoretical tools and techniques has benefited scientists across a wide array of disciplines --  including information and computer science, economics, physics and mathematics.


T his is truly an interdisciplinary domain," Wang said.

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