An institute established at Indiana University only three years ago is playing host to the world's largest gathering of experts in the emerging field of network science.
Almost 700 experts gathered at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis starting June 19 for NetSci 2017, the flagship conference of the Network Science Society. The event, which runs through June 23, is hosted by the Indiana University Network Science Institute, or IUNI.
Network science is the study of the complex networks that underlie large-scale systems, including the environment, economics, technology and human health. IUNI was established in 2014 to help understand and manage the function of these complex systems, a key challenge of the 21st century.
This year's NetSci conference is the largest in history, with 680 registrations from 29 countries. The event also featured three keynote speakers, 10 plenary speakers, 22 pre-conference satellite workshops and 23 technical sessions with about 130 oral presentations and 218 posters.
A third of the attendees and speakers are from outside the United States, including China, Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom and Italy.
"This year's NetSci conference is truly the largest ever," said Olaf Sporns, IU Distinguished Professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and co-chair of NetSci 2017. "Bringing this international meeting to Indianapolis gives a major boost to IU's vibrant and accomplished network science community of faculty and students. IUNI was instrumental in making this happen, and we will continue to work toward strengthening IU's leadership role in this fast-growing discipline."
The conference is also the first time the state has played host to this major scientific event in over a decade. The inaugural NetSci conference was hosted at IU Bloomington in 2006.
"After starting NetSci a little over 10 years ago, we're thrilled to bring the flagship Network Science conference back to IU," said Fil Menczer, professor in the IU School of Informatics and Computing and co-chair of the conference. "Network Science has grown since then from a niche research area to a major interdisciplinary field, and we are proud that IU with its Network Science Institute is a world leader in this exciting scientific endeavor."
Today, the Network Science Society honored former IU researcher Vittoria Colizza with the 2017 Erdős-Rényi Prize at the conference. The award recognizes young scientists for contributions to the field of network science.
A rising expert on the intersection of network science and disease prevention, Colizza spent three years as a postdoctoral researcher and later a visiting professor at the IU School of Informatics and Computing. Currently, she leads the EPIcx lab at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Paris, which works to characterize and model the spread of emerging infectious diseases using network science methods. Colizza also delivered the honorary lecture at NetSci 2017.
Over the past three years, scientists affiliated with IUNI have advanced research in numerous high-impact areas, including:
- Neuroscience research to understanding the complex function of interconnected communication networks in the brain -- a field of science known as the human connectome -- as well as the development of an online platform for scientists to share neuroscience research data.
- The development of tools to detect fake social media accounts used to promote false and deceptive misinformation campaigns online as well as a search engine to track and understand the spread of false information across the Web.
- The analysis of social networks to understand and prevent the abuse of prescription painkiller medications through the practice of "doctor shopping."
- Research on how social networks affect people's attitudes and actions about health care, including their influence on access to treatment for mental illness.
The institute's leaders said the close connections between various scientific fields -- such as informatics, computer science, neuroscience, medicine, political science and sociology -- set IUNI apart globally.
In addition to NetSci 2017, IUNI has hosted numerous other lectures, workshops, workgroups and other activities to foster collaboration between scientists interested in network science across disciplines. This will include the inaugural Big Data Neuroscience 2017 Workshop from Sept. 8 to 9 organized by the Advanced Neuroscience Network in collaboration with IUNI. The event is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to Franco Pestilli of the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and others to establish a Neurosciences "Spoke" under the Midwest Big Data Hub.
The next NetSci conference will take place June 11 to 15 in Paris, France.