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NCSA builds social networking tools

Story posted August 8, 2006

NCSA's Science of Networks in Communities (SONIC) group has begun a three-year, NSF-funded project to develop social networking tools. These tools will enable collaboration among public health experts dealing with tobacco-related illnesses, including researchers, physicians, and epidemiologists. This pioneering effort will incorporate social networking tools into the Tobacco Behavioral Informatics Grid (ToBIG), which is being built by several government agencies (including NIH and the CDC) involved in public health.

SONIC addresses the discovery, diagnosis, and design of communication and knowledge networks, helping communities tap their own wells of information, helping leaders identify key characteristics of communities, and helping communities tune existing networks and structure new networks to more effectively achieve their goals.

Beyond the Tobacco Behavioral Informatics Grid, the SONIC group is investigating and implementing socio-technical incentives for creating and sustaining communities in several communities within science and engineering, business, and entertainment. They are engaged in four NSF funded projects: the Collaborative Large-scale Engineering and Analysis Network for Environmental Research (CLEANER); IT-based Collaboration framework for Preparedness, Response, and Recovery from disasters involving critical physical infrastructures (CP2R); Emergent Multiorganization Networks in the Hurricane Katrina Response (EMONs), and Instrumenting Behaviors and Attitudes in Virtual Worlds to understand the social networks that form in massively, multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). As part of their efforts, they work with corporations like Proctor and Gamble, Vodafone, and Sony Online Entertainment. SONIC is also taking the lead in developing standards and protocols for a cyberenvironment to support the basic network science research that enables these sorts of advances.

For more information about SONIC, go to