About Web Science and Graduate Studies in England

    Web scienceDespite the fact that Web science (web science) was officially proclaimed back in the "bearded" 2006th, this topic almost bypassed Habr side, not counting the fleeting news about its very appearance.

    I take this opportunity to tell you what the science of the Web is, why to deal with it and why it is generally science. At the same time I will try to talk about new opportunities in this direction and how to use them.

    I had the chance to be personally acquainted and work with those who are at the origins of Web science and personally observe its development, so the information can be said “first hand”. All interested - I ask you for favor under habrakat.

    What is this?

    Nothing like the web has ever happened in human history. The scale, reach and speed of the web cannot be compared with anything. Currently, the information published on the network covers almost every aspect of our lives and contains almost all the knowledge ever known to mankind. Despite this, the Web as a phenomenon (and as an entity) is practically unexplored. In most cases, Web technologies, programming languages, web design, standards and the like are studied. At the same time, rarely does anyone think about the network architecture, internal relationships at the technological and social levels. Without an understanding of how the Web operates on a global scale, it is difficult to create new technologies and make any forecasts.

    For many, the Web appears to be just one of the technologies that operate on the Internet, such as email, FTP, or ICQ. This, of course, is true, but the Web is much more than just technology! It is unlikely that anyone will argue that the Web is now an integral part of our culture. However, we simply do not know the answers to a huge number of questions related to the Web. What is the size of the web? How fast is the web changing? How to measure or simulate the web? What does the entire web look like? How to determine the structure of the network, behavioral models? What technologies are needed? These and many other questions should be answered by Web science, or the science of the World Wide Web.

    The creators of science compare the current situation with the presence of an elephant in the room. It is so big that it cannot be invisible. But we see it so often that we don’t even think about what it is and why we need it.

    A separate science?

    All research related to the Web could simply be identified in a small area of ​​computer science or something similar. Nevertheless, it is a separate science. Why? Just studying the network does not fit into any of the existing sciences. It is rather a combination of several disciplines, where each considers individual aspects of the network, but all of them as a whole analyze the big picture. This structure of Web science looks something like this:

    Web Science Components

    That is, the science of the Web includes many disciplines, some to a greater extent, others to a lesser extent, while many of them intersect. All this is simply impossible to shove into any of the existing fields of science. And the phenomenon of the Web itself is too unique and large-scale to study it within the framework of one discipline.

    Who are all these people?

    Most likely, the idea of ​​studying the Web as a phenomenon and a separate subject has already occurred to many people. But without an organized approach, all this would remain an idea. Web science was first talked about when Tim Bernes-Lee , creator of URL, HTTP and HTML, and Wendy Hall , currently president of the Association for Computing Machinery, ACM, announced the creation of the Web Science Research Initiative Group ( November 2006 ). Web Science Research Initiative, WSRI), which later became the Web Science Trust .

    Currently, the main activity of the Web Science Trust is aimed at identifying key areas in research and curriculum design. In addition, the Web Science Trust regulates financial investments in Web science and manages sponsorship investments. The organization includes several educational institutions in the UK and the USA, namely:

    Doctor of Web Sciences?

    The title of Doctor of Web Sciences sounds a bit ... unusual ... But, hell, why not! All of the above universities that are part of the Web Science Trust now offer educational and research programs for Masters and Doctors of Web Science. Each university is distinguished by its specificity and focuses on individual aspects of science. Unfortunately, your humble servant cannot describe each university individually, but, fortunately, is directly related to the University of Southampton, where the Web Science Trust was created and is now based.

    What's on the menu?

    Currently, the University of Southampton offers the following programs:

    The first two courses take place as standard curricula and take 1 year. That is, you start in October and go to lectures for two semesters (approximately until mid-May), and in the third semester (in summer) write a dissertation, which is due by September. If everything is successful - you get the title of master.

    The doctor’s program is a research course and is fundamentally different from the first two. The duration depends mainly on you, but usually it is 2-4 years. During this time, you will need to determine the topic of research, study a huge pile of literature, and finally write a dissertation. Also, if everything is successful, then after defending your dissertation you will receive the title of doctor (PhD, in the west this is the highest academic degree, although in Russia it is equivalent to a candidate of science).

    The process of writing a doctorate approximately coincides with getting a Ph.D. in Russia, that is, you get a supervisor, participate in various projects, seminars, conferences. A distinctive moment is the financial part.

    Who pays for the banquet?

    The financial issue in this whole undertaking is, as a rule, a stumbling block. Tuition fees are £ 12,500 per year for masters, and £ 14,000 per year for doctors. In other words, with an average PhD course of 3 years, you have to shell out £ 42,000. A little less or the same amount will be required for living and daily expenses. It turns out a very large amount, which is hardly permissible for the average person.

    But there is always a way out! The fact is that in the West, and in particular in the UK, education is very well sponsored and works quite closely with large companies in the industry. None of my friends from PhD students pay for their studies on their own, although they all came from different parts of the world. University, using a variety of sponsored programsfully covers the cost of training and even pays a scholarship (about £ 13,500 per year). That is, it turns out that the university kind of takes you to work. On your part, the university hopes to receive valuable research work. You are also given financial support and the title of doctor in the final. By the way, they can even give you a free laptop (usually a freshly bought Mac) and periodically offer various conferences around the world (if you are very good).

    What to do?

    As you probably already guessed, they just won’t give it all away, otherwise many would have used it for a long time. What is required? First of all, you need English, confirmed by a formal test with a good result (at least 6.5 for IELTS or 580 for TOEFL) Still need a diploma of higher education, with a good result and from a good university. Ideally, a red diploma from a famous university. Finally, the story of one or more successfully completed projects, work experience and qualifications gained will be an additional plus. To get to the doctor’s course, there are two ways: come up with your own topic or join an already completed project. You, most likely, will have to do the first, since the university, as a rule, selects people in finished projects. Therefore, it is highly desirable to have at least a rough understanding of what you want to do and be able to make a good research proposal that shows your knowledge of the target industry. The last thing you will need to write is a personal application (personal statement) - a sort of mini-story about you, your achievements and how you ended up where you are now.

    The better the overall package of documents looks, the more chances you have to get financial support. It is important to understand that it is beneficial for the university to get as many PhD students as possible, so you are likely to get a place on the course without difficulty. It is much more difficult to get sponsorship, especially if you are not from the European Union (for EU citizens the number of sponsorship programs is higher). Here you have to sweat and do your best to prove that you are one of the best in this field and have great potential. A big plus will be if you already have a successful scientific (diploma) project, about which there is something to tell and something to brag about.

    To summarize, we can say that of course there is no free cheese. You will have to sweat well to achieve your goal. But is not 3 years of life in England, a unique scientific work and the title of doctor worth it? And then, you still have plenty of time - accepting applications for the next year (2011/2012) is open until May 2011 (although the sooner the better, but you can take your time until January).

    I hope I was able to discover new opportunities in the scientific community and talk about the emerging science of the Web. Sorry, a little messy, I tried to fit all the most important details. I sincerely wish good luck to everyone who sets a goal and decides to act!

    You can read more about Web Science in this article from ACM Communications or watch the video from the conference.at the Royal

    P.S. If someone suddenly thought - no. I do not receive any personal benefit from this article, and I am associated with the university only as a former undergraduate student and, possibly, a future PhD student. I just tried to reveal a new topic on Habré, which was previously somehow lost. If there is interest, I can separately describe new, interesting projects in Web Science.

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