The increased access to big data about social phenomena in general, and network data in particular, has been a windfall for social scientists. But these exciting opportunities must be accompanied with careful reflection on how big data can motivate new theories and methods. Using examples of his research in the area of networks, Contractor will argue that Computational Social Science serves as the foundation to unleash the intellectual insights locked in big data. More importantly, he will illustrate how these insights offer social scientists in general, and social network scholars in particular, an unprecedented opportunity to engage more actively in monitoring, anticipating and designing interventions to address grand societal challenges.
Noshir Contractor is the Jane S. & William J. White Professor of Behavioral Sciences in the McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science, the School of Communication and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, USA. He is the Director of the Science of Networks in Communities (SONIC) Research Group at Northwestern University and a board member of the Web Science Trust. He is investigating factors that lead to the formation, maintenance, and dissolution of dynamically linked social and knowledge networks in a wide variety of contexts.
His research program has been funded continuously for almost two decades by major grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation with additional funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), Army Research Laboratory, Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Research Institute, NASA, Rockefeller Foundation, Gates Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.
His book titled Theories of Communication Networks (co-authored with Professor Peter Monge and published by Oxford University Press), received the 2003 Book of the Year award from the Organizational Communication Division of the National Communication Association. He was a recipient of the 2014 National Communication Association Distinguished Scholar Award and in 2015 he was elected a Fellow of the International Communication Association. He is also the co-founder and Chairman of Syndio, which offers organizations products and services based on network analytics.
Professor Contractor has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California.