I had the chance to work in over thirty European and national research projects, often in collaboration with researchers and industry from other countries. My personal highlights in this journey are INSEMTIVES (EU FP7), RENDER (EU FP7) and QROWD (EU H2020). All three have several common features – they look at the web or analogous large, decentralised systems as socio-technical constructs, which require an understanding and appreciation of the experiences and motivations of their users, and consider user incentives, in addition to sophisticated technologies, to realise their functionality. For example, in QROWD, which finished late 2019, we built a hybrid, crowd-computer architecture for smart transport, which enables apps and services for traffic management, navigation and parking. In the same space, I have had the pleasure to contribute to SOCIAM, a large UK grant studying the design and evolution of social machines, including citizen-science platforms, online communities and social networks. As a scientist I found citizen science a fascinating application of hybrid, collective intelligence: in ACTION, I worked with 15 citizen-science communities around Europe fight pollution, and since last year, we’ve scaled that model of engagement to more than a hundred initiatives in Impetus.
Between 2015 and 2020, I led two European data incubators, ODINE and Data Pitch, helping almost a hundred small and medium businesses from more than 20 countries innovate with data. Both programmes taught me a lot about how people use open, closed and shared data. I’ve tried to apply the lessons I’ve learned to new domains – from 2017 to 2021 I was the PI of Data Stories, an EPSRC funded grant that develops concepts and tools that make data easier to engage with in everyday situations; this line of research has taken me into arts-inspired approaches to data and technology engagement, as in the European programme MediaFutures.
I have been part of many amazing initiatives of the scientific community – I served as chair and programme chair of the European and International Semantic Web Conference series, the European Data Forum, the European Semantic Technologies conference, the AAAI Conference on Human Computation and Crowdsourcing, and The Web Conference. I am currently the president of the Semantic Web Science Association. Over the years, have led many summer schools in Europe, Asia, and the US and pursued a range of education activities, from projects like EUCLID, which developed an open curriculum for Linked Data to the Southampton Data Science Academy, which offers professional training in digital transformation technologies such as AI and data science.
This year I have ventured outside academia and joined the Open Data Institute as director of research. Seeing research insights making their way into applications and having an impact on practices, standards, policy making is a rewarding, but humbling experience and I’m enjoying every minute of it.