Yong Yeol Ahn, an associate professor of informatics and computing at the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has been honored with a Minerva Research Initiative Award worth a total of $4.4 million by the United States Department of Defense.
The initiative, which was launched in 2008, supports basic social science research that focuses on topics of particular relevance to U.S. national security. Ahn was joined in his research by SICE colleagues, including Associate Professor of Informatics Staša Milojević, Professor of Informatics Alessandro Flammini, and Professor of Informatics and Computing Fil Menczer. Former SICE professor Sriraam Natarajan, now at the University of Texas at Dallas, also was part of group.
“This is a big team effort, and I’m very lucky to work with so many talented colleagues,” Ahn said. “This is the largest project of my career, particularly as a team leader. The project also is quite ambitious, so I feel a strong sense of responsibility while being very excited about the project.”
Ahn’s team plans to develop Science Genome, which is a new quantitative framework to investigate Science of Science using representation learning and graph embedding. The project will take advantage of the availability of digitized bibliographic data sets and powerful computational methods, such as machine learning with deep neural networks, to tap into hidden information present in complex scholarly graphs.
“We want to advance our understanding of both methodologies and science of science,” Ahn said. “By developing, applying, and comparing methods to concrete problems, we want to better understand how the machine learning system works. Then we would like to reformulate and address fundamental questions of science of science. We hope to create a novel framework that allows completely new measurements on the system of science.”
The initial idea for the project was born from the complex systems reading group at SICE, where students and faculty members discuss papers. The group read a series of machine learning papers and discussed how they can be applied to network science and related fields, which led to the development of the novel ideas that became part of the proposal.
“We’re excited to develop a relationship with the Minerva Research Initiative,” said Nathan Ensmenger, chair of the informatics program at SICE. “The work of YY and his team showcase the ability of informatics to help makes sense of data, which can help create solutions and insights that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.”
Ahn’s proposal, “Science Genome: A Scholarly Graph Embedding Framework to Uncover the Fundamental Dynamics of Scientific Enterprise,” was one of 12 selected for the prestigious award following a merit-based competition in which the proposals were peer-reviewed and selected in conference between the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
“We live in a dynamic world, and many of the challenges we face are social or have social elements to them,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, deputy director of the Basic Research Office. “The knowledge and methodologies generated from Minerva awardees are an important source of new ideas from the social science community to better understand the social aspects that are inherent to security and stability.”