COM Research Group Receives NSF Grant

CDSC members plus affiliates and guests at UW April 2019. From left to right the people in the picture are: Jeremy, Nate, Charlie, Kaylea, Sejal, Jonathan, Emilia, Mako, Morten, Jim, Isaac, Salt, Abel, and Sayamindu

In exciting news, Assistant Professor Benjamin Mako Hill’s research group, the Community Data Science Collective (CDSC), recently received a grant for nearly $500,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The CDSC is an interdisciplinary group made of up of faculty and students at the UW Department of Communication and the Northwestern University Department of Communication Studies. The grant will be distributed over three years, and a majority of it will support graduate students at both universities.

Dr. Hill and Dr. Aaron Shaw from Northwestern University collaborated on the proposal as principal investigators. Communication graduate student Nate TeBlunthuis also played a central role in leading the intellectual development of the work at the core of the proposal, titled “Modeling the Ecological Dynamics of Online Organizations.”

The grant will support the building of an ecological theory on how online communities affect each other in mutualistic and competitive ways. According to the abstract, the research will be structured around three linked projects answering fundamental ecological questions: How is the growth and survival of individual online communities shaped by activity within their environments? How do communities interact with each other in ways that are beneficial or harmful to their success? How can communities strategically build and discover opportunities for growth and productivity in their environments?

The grant was funded as part of the Cyber-Human Systems (CHS) program in the Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS) division under the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate at the NSF.

“I’m incredibly happy for Nate and for our whole research team at [the] UW and Northwestern!” Dr. Hill said. “I’m also very excited about extra resources to expand this area of our research.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Hill won the 2019 Research Symbiont Award. The Department wishes him and the Community Data Science Collective the best in this important new endeavor.