Our faculty research topics that span the information sciences. Explore our collection of grant-funded projects within some of our most active research fields.

Data Science and Computation

Investigator: Daniel Acuña
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: September 2016–August 2018
Award: $148,585

This project identifies scientists and organizations and their topical interests, enabling the tracking of past productivity and impact. By linking scholarly literature and grants, this project creates a unified dataset that captures diverse scientific disciplines and federal grant award types. A web-based tool levels the playing field for scientists lacking knowledge about research and funding programs. Users are expected to spend less time searching the literature and more time evaluating significance and impact.

Investigators: Duncan Brown, Peter Couvares, Ewa Deelman, and Jian Qin
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: October 2014–September 2017
Award: $900,000 to date

Analysis and management of large data sets are vital for progress in the data-intensive realm of scientific research and education. Scientists are producing, analyzing, storing, and retrieving massive amounts of data. The anticipated growth in the analysis of scientific data raises complex issues of stewardship, curation, and long-term access. Scientific data is tracked and described by metadata. This award will fund the design, development, and deployment of metadata-aware workflows to enable the management of large data sets produced by scientific analysis. This project will pilot new workflow tools using data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a data-intensive project at the frontiers of astrophysics.

Investigator: Bei Yu
Sponsor: Institute for Museum and Library Services
Project Period: June 2014–May 2018
Award: $386,030

This early career project aims to build an automated tool that can plug into a full-text bibliographic database, extract the citation statements about a cited article, separate substantial citations from perfunctory ones, and categorize substantial citation opinions by their purposes (e.g. comparison, critique, etc.), subjects (e.g. methods, results, etc.), and tones (e.g. positive, negative, and neutral). This Citation Opinion Retrieval and Analysis tool, abbreviated as CORA, will save librarians and researchers a significant amount of time in finding the most useful comments from a large number of citations. CORA will also provide a new, qualitative approach for assessing research impact. CORA can also help monitoring the quality of scientific publications by facilitating easier identification of citation bias and inaccurate citations from the re-organized citations.

Computational Social Science

Investigator: Yun Huang
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: September 2015–August 2017
Award: $116,255 to date

This research aims to investigate key factors that motivate and influence people’s willingness to share safety-related information in a mobile, social environment. The project will create a mobile crowdsourcing system that can be adopted by all safety agencies of institutions of higher education to help improve campus safety. More broadly, the mobile system can become a model for community policing in an effort to improve public safety nationwide.

Digital Technologies and Society

Investigator: Steve Sawyer
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: April 2017–March 2018
Award: $52,299

This research advances our understanding of how people from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue work in the the so-called knowledge-based gig economy, doing contract work such as programming and writing. The research will delve into how these workers obtain, assemble, and organize digital resources, such as mobile devices, software and services, storage, security, and interconnectivity, to accomplish their jobs. These workers, especially if they lack an office, may work in coffee shops, libraries, co-working centers, and other on-the-go places. Some have routine circuits of travel and can rely on co-working spaces; some are more nomadic. Either way, they must organize and reconfigure their work resources, creating “mobile offices” that provide cognitive space (attention), physical space (room to work), communications (relationships with others), and direct work resources. Digital technologies are usually necessary and require technical and social competence and financial resources. Recent studies show that this kind of work is likely to become a larger part of the future workforce.

One goal of this research is to understand in greater depth what will be needed to make this kind of work successful, and to identify the particular challenges and needs of workers who come from disadvantaged backgrounds (such as single parents, rural workers, etc). A second goal of this work is to develop better methods for collecting data on contract or gig workers, and how to understand the alternative uses of these workers’ digital platforms, applications, and devices.

Investigator: Jenny Stromer-Galley, Rosa Martey, James Folkestad, Kate Kensky, Deb Plochocki, Lu Xiao, Carsten Østerlund, Lael Schooler, David Kellen, Ben Clegg
Sponsor: IARPA
Project Period: January 2017–June 2021

Award: Up to $11,500,000

Our Syracuse University-led team will develop and experimentally evaluate TRACE: a web-based intelligence analysis application that helps analysts to accurately and efficiently reason through complex tasks to produce clear, well-supported intelligence products that also provide traces of the reasoning to address a wide range of intelligence problems. The TRACE concept builds on a careful analysis of the weaknesses of current approaches, which often are cognitively burdensome and inhibit the creative thinking needed for the Intelligence Community’s (IC) most critical issues. We are a multi-disciplinary team capable of distilling and integrating the best ideas from the range of research relevant to the cognitive processes of intelligence analysis. The team has the experience to design and implement large scale experiments, efficiently analyze results, and use that knowledge to design effective applications that are robust, useful, and make significant advances over the current state of the art.

Investigators: Elizabeth Kreitemeyer, Tarek Rakha, Jason Dedrick, Lorne Covington
Sponsor: Center of Excellence
Project Period: November 2016–June 2017
Award: $24,997

A new generation of urban building energy models (UBEMs) are currently being developed to estimate neighborhood-scale hourly energy demand loads. The goal for such tools is to explore “what if” scenarios for various design strategies, and to prioritize the most effective solutions. The objectives of this research are to visualize the relationships between three critical and closely related subjects that are not yet integrated within existing UBEMs: 1) the functioning of the electric grid and how it can be made cleaner, more efficient and more resilient; 2) the use of energy by buildings and how this can be minimized while also improving building functionality and the comfort of occupants; 3) the dynamic external available natural resources of solar and wind energy for matching resource with demand. Using currently acquired energy-use datasets from the Pecan Street Institute for residential buildings in Austin, TX, combined with our current visualization techniques and urban building simulation tools, a new UBEM will be developed to simulate, test, and visualize future scenarios and strategies.

Investigators: Bess Kreitemeyer, Jason Dedrickm, Tarek Rakha
Sponsor: Sustainable Enterprise Partnership and US Green Building Council
Project Period: January 2017–December 2017
Award: $19,000

The objectives of this research are to expand the research team’s urban building energy model (UBEM) to assess the climate-specific environmental, comfort, and design impacts of the USGBC rating system. The goals of the UBEM are to:

  1. support clean and resilient functioning of the electric grid;
  2. minimize energy by buildings while improving occupant comfort internally and externally;
  3. match microclimatic external energy resources of solar and wind energy with building energy demand;
  4. promote variability in architectural and urban design outcomes.

Using the Mueller community as a testbed for our UBEM, the research team will integrate three key datasets:

  1. currently acquired high resolution energy-use datasets from the Pecan Street Institute’s smart monitoring system;
  2. weather data from the Mueller Airport Control Tower;
  3. data from the Green Building Information Gateway related to LEED certified and energy star rated residential homes.

Investigator: Steve Sawyer
Ph.D. Student: Sarika Sharma
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: September 2015–August 2018
Award: $494,511

This project advances the current state of knowledge regarding the governance of scholarly digital infrastructures, comparing interoperability, interconnection, capacity management, and systems management. Digital infrastructures are large-scale sociotechnical systems that rely on the Internet technologies, digital data, and social practices that work together to create functionality across time and space. This research is motivated by the growth of large-scale digital projects designed to support the digitization, preservation, access, and reuse of information artifacts. The need for long-term sustainable computational resources for information is ubiquitous across all aspects of society including government, education, healthcare, and scientific research.

Investigators: Jason Dedrick, Jeff Stanton
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: September 2014–August 2017
Award: $266,101

Smart electric meters comprise one key technology element in an overall strategy to modernize the nation’s energy infrastructure. Smart meters capture data on household energy usage at frequent intervals and transmit those data to utility companies, who use the data to automate meter reading and billing, detect and respond to outages, and manage grid operations. Despite these advantages, smart meter data also appear to create powerful customer privacy concerns that may inhibit the adoption of smart meter technology by utilities. To address privacy concerns pertaining to the smart meter data, this project proposes three studies: Study 1 uses public data on electricity usage to develop a set of privacy scenarios that will be tested in focus groups to explore consumer privacy concerns. Study 2 involves a quasi-experiment to assess key dimensions of the scenarios and help identify which scenario has the highest level of acceptability to consumers. Study 3 involves one-on-one discussions with utility company representatives to develop a toolbox of communication methods and content that balance consumers’ privacy concerns with the goals and constraints of utilities.

Investigator: Steve Sawyer, Carsten Østerlund
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: August 2012–August 2018
Award: $413,631

This project will build and validate a typology of collaboration types associated with cyberinfrastructure (CI) use in the conduct of science. The research focuses on documents and documenting practices as important windows into the sociotechnical arrangements of scientific teams. A large number of virtual scientific collaborations will be studied and compared using a mix of text mining, social network analysis and qualitative methods. The research will result in: (1) a detailed compendium regarding what document infrastructures scientists build to support their virtual organizing and documenting practices and (2) specific design principles for the distributed, social and technical aspects of scientific work. The findings will have implications for better design and management of virtual scientific teams and for CI to support scientific endeavors.

Investigator: Steve Sawyer
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: January 2012– September 2017
Award: $492,466

This Research Coordination Network will employ a series of workshops, seminars and other capacity-building activities to build out a “lightweight” (i.e., minimally burdensome or constraining, widely accessible and appreciated) network organization whose participants seek to advance the design, adoption and impact of digital technologies through sociotechnical research. A key product associated with the network will be a cyberinfrastructure that enables deposit and retrieval of useful assets (e.g., ideas, documents, data) for studying, designing and managing sociotechnical systems.

Human-Centered Computing and Design

Investigator: Bryan Semaan
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: June 2017–May 2019
Award: $173,205

This research focuses on how veterans returning home from war use information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as social and mobile media, to manage invisible crises in transition – those unexpected or unusual dislocations that challenge our ordinary means for solving problems. These technologies can improve peoples’ resilience to disruptions, but at present there is a lack of deep and systematic knowledge about how ICTs enable resiliency, and this research aims to address this gap. A more empirically situated understanding of how transitions happen and how ICTs are used can provide the basis for improving the designs of technologies, advancing training and education for transition, and influencing policy.

Investigator: Yun Huang
Sponsor: Google
Project Period: August 2015–August 2018
Award: $38,514

In this project, we will explore what information can be integrated into the Indoor Maps data service by designing, developing, and studying a map-based mobile application, called SU-IO, which collects and displays Syracuse University’s indoor and outdoor resources, events, and services on maps. Evaluation of the system design and its usage with different university stakeholders and students will help us develop a common format, called General University Feed Specification (GUFS), which can be used by any institution of higher education to open up their data. Ideally, Google Indoor Maps will adopt the GUFS, so that crowdsourced data that can be shared with the public can be shown to and be searchable by everybody on Google Indoor Maps. Third party app developers can also use the GUFS data service, and develop apps that support students’ learning experiences on college campuses.

Information Systems

Investigator: Yang Wang
Investigator: Yun Huang
Sponsor: Carnegie Mellon University (prior sponsor: NIDDR; prime sponsor: DHHS)
Project Period: January 2014–December 2018
Award: $840,776 to date

Collectively, this project will generate strategically important outputs that address high-priority needs of end users and increase the adoption of universal design within industry. Specifically, the Syracuse team is leading two sub-projects (R3 and DV1). The goal of R3 (Accessible Authentication for Everyone) is to design and evaluate accessible, secure, usable, and privacy-preserving authentication schemes that everyone can use. The goal of DV1 (Accessibility Modules for Rapid Development) is to develop a lightweight utility infrastructure, CAN (Composable Accessibility Infrastructure), where software developers share their functional modules, and website or mobile app developers can easily find and integrate suitable accessibility modules into their sites or apps.

Learning and Education

Investigator: Jeffrey Saltz
Sponsor: 2U
Project Period: January–December 2017
Award: $13,851

This research will explore the impact of different approaches for students to work in online breakout groups. Specifically, this research will focus on data science “programming” tasks, using a controlled experiment. The research aims to understand if an approach that provides structure for collaborative task completion (distributed pair programming) is more effective (in terms of student learning and student attitudes) as compared to informal team collaborations or having students work by themselves. This research will be useful for online instructors beyond those that teach data science, in that these techniques can be generalized to many tasks assigned to student breakout groups.

Investigator: Paul Gandel
Sponsor: Effat University
Project Period: September 2013–August 2017
Award: $259,491

Syracuse University is assisting Effat University through: (a) the provision of guidance and advice for Effat’s IS program, including guidance and advice on the development and assessment of Effat curricula in IS and identification of resources necessary to support the program; and (b) participation in the Program Advisory Committee (PAC) for the IS in Effat to better ensure its accreditation and recognition by national and international agencies.

Libraries and Librarianship

Investigators: Rachel Ivy Clarke, Jin Ha Lee
Sponsor: Institute for Museum and Library Services
Project Period: June 2017–May 2018
Award: $92,477

Syracuse University School of Information Studies and the University of Washington Information School will hold a National Forum on design thinking and methods in master’s level library education. The Forum will address: identifying gaps in existing MLIS curricula; exploring approaches for incorporating design thinking in master’s level library education, and offering actionable recommendations for this incorporation. The project will consist of three phases: 1) a field scan of design topics in MLIS curricula; 2) a meeting of educators, library employers, and design professionals; and 3) production of sample syllabi.

Investigator: Megan Oakleaf
Sponsor: Institute for Museum and Library Services
Project Period: July 2017–June 2018
Award: $99,876

A three-part forum called Library Integration in Institutional Learning Analytics (LIILA) will be convened to increase academic library involvement in higher education learning analytics and prepare academic librarians to engage in this emerging and important use of data to support student learning and success. Learning analytics involves the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of data about learners and their contexts or learning environments. The project includes a literature review; a forum consisting of three meetings for 31 librarians, administrators, and other representatives; and sharing of findings and conclusions from the meetings with the broader academic library and higher education community through a white paper and conference presentations.

Investigator: Ruth V. Small, Marilyn P. Arnone
Sponsor: Institute for Museum and Library Services
Project Period: December 2015–November 2017
Award: $249,495

Project Description: Syracuse University’s Center for Digital Literacy, along with By Kids For Kids, the Connecticut Invention Convention, Brooklyn-On-Tech, Time2Invent, and OCLC’s Webjunction, among other collaborators, will work with 96 school librarians and students in grades 4–8 to create a website called The Innovation Destination. The site, developed using an iterative design approach, will contain resources and training materials, including lesson plans, activities, web links, pathfinders, learning games, bibliographies, and research articles, for use by elementary and middle school librarians to stimulate and support creative thinking. The centerpiece of the site will be KidsClips, a searchable database of hundreds of interviews with successful young innovators who provide insights into the innovation process and serve as role models for students. The project aims to enable librarians to recognize the importance of motivating and supporting student innovation by creating innovation spaces within their libraries, demonstrate knowledge and skills for being innovation mentors, and report increased student interest in innovation resources and activities.

Investigators: Yun Huang, Jian Qin
Sponsor: Institute for Museum and Library Services
Project Period: October 2015–September 2018
Award: $281,263

Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool) will partner with Coulter Library at Onondaga Community College and the Fayetteville Free Library to design a Community Profile System to include human expertise, particularly in the STEM fields. The system will enable librarians to collect communities’ learning needs, identify relevant community experts, and link the resources to serve the learning needs in a cost-efficient manner. The tangible products include the Community Profile System and its web and mobile applications. As libraries shift from collection-driven to community-driven service models, the Community Profile System will fill a much needed gap in the community-oriented librarianship toolbox.  The collaboration and partnerships will ensure that design, testing, and assessment of the tool will meet its goal of national adoption in diverse settings.

Organizations, Collaboration, and Leadership

Investigator: Kevin Crowston
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: August 2016–July 2019
Award: $138,139

This project supports the development of theory and tools to improve the coordination of distributed teams. Specifically, prior research suggests that free/libre open source software (FLOSS) developers use the software code they are developing as a basis for coordinating their work, a phenomenon known as stigmergic coordination. Stigmergic coordination can be more effective and efficient than coordination through explicit discussion, so there could be benefits if it can be used more broadly. The goal of the project is to study FLOSS developers to understand how stigmergic coordination works and to develop a system to enable its use in other settings.

Investigator: Jian Qin, Jeff Hemsley
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: September 2016–August 2018
Award: $381,481

This research addresses questions of the size and dynamics of collaboration networks at the data creation stage in relation to productivity and rate of knowledge transfer as represented by publications and patents. Based on the metrics and research framework, metadata from GenBank and other sources, such as patent data from the US Patent and Trademark Office and funding data from NIH’s ExPORT, is processed and analyzed with descriptive statistics and models from Complex Network Analysis.  With this, we are studying not only the topological properties of the data submission and publication networks, but also the temporal ordering of collaborative relationships and the overlap of sequence submission and publication networks. Through slicing, plotting, and visualizing data, appropriate sampling strategies and algorithms are developed to more deeply explore collaboration networks, both structurally and temporally.

Investigator: Kevin Crowston, Carsten Østerlund
Sponsor: Northwestern University (prime sponsor: NSF)
Project Period: October 2015–September 2018
Award: $294,818

This innovative project will develop a citizen science system to support the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (aLIGO), the most complicated experiment ever undertaken in gravitational physics. It is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the existing LIGO, which is being technically enhanced, and Zooniverse, which has fielded a workable crowdsourcing model to involve citizen scientists in making and classifying observations. The high detector sensitivity needed for astrophysical discoveries makes aLIGO very susceptible to noncosmic artifacts and noise that must be identified and separated from cosmic signals.This research will address these problems by coupling human classification with a machine learning model that learns from the citizen scientists and also guides how information is provided to participants. A novel feature of this system will be its reliance on volunteers to discover new glitch classes, not just use existing ones. The project includes research on the human-centered computing aspects of this sociocomputational system, and thus can inspire future citizen science projects that do not merely exploit the labor of volunteers but engage them as partners in scientific discovery.

Investigator: Carsten Østerlund, Kevin Crowston
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: July 2012–August 2017
Award: $337,099

The goal of this project is to develop a next-generation sociocomputational citizen science platform that combines the efforts of human classifiers with those of computational systems to maximize the efficiency with which human attention can be used. In many areas of research, the relentless growth of data sets has led to the adoption of increasingly automated and unsupervised methods of classification. In many cases, this has led to degradation in classification quality, with machine learning and computer vision unable to replicate the successes of human pattern recognition. The growth of citizen science on the web has provided a temporary solution to this problem, demonstrating that it is possible to recruit hundreds of thousands of volunteers to make an authentic contribution to results. The project is developing new methods of computational data analysis, and is testing and applying theories of human motivation and learning in an online context, which can then be applied to a broad range of social-computational problems.

Security and Privacy

Investigator: Yang Wang
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: June 2017–May 2022
Award: up to $497,874

This CAREER grant aims to provide better computer-based privacy tools to people with disabilities, particularly those with visual impairments. Although information privacy is a concern for everyone, common tools such as spam-detecting captchas, password strength meters, security alert messages, and browser icons that indicate secure connections are often designed without considering people with visual impairments and thus are hard for this group to use. Meanwhile, common workarounds such as audio screen readers and requests for help from other people come with their own privacy risks. To better understand the privacy challenges people with visual impairments face, the researchers will first study their use of and known privacy concerns around technologies. They will then work with people with visual impairments to generate, test, and improve a number of design ideas that might address those challenges and concerns. Finally, they will work to generalize the studies and designs to other populations, including older adults who might have different privacy expectations than younger people as well as people with cognitive impairments. The research will lead to a better understanding of privacy needs across the population, as well as “inclusive” designs for privacy management tools that can be better not just for underserved populations but for all people.

Investigator: Jason Dedrick, Peter Wilcoxen, Steve Chapin, Keli Perrin
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: August 2016–July 2018
Award: $344,184

This research identifies potential security and privacy risks associated with distributed electricity markets, measures to provide an acceptable level of risk, and trade-offs between risk reduction and performance of distributed markets. The results will provide guidance to utilities, regulators and other participants in designing effective and robust market structures with necessary security and privacy protection. The research is multidisciplinary, and employs an innovative mix of research methods, including interviews, modeling of market structures, simulations using real world electricity use data, modeling of data flows, and security threat analysis.

Investigator: Yang Wang
Ph.D. Student: Corey Jackson
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: September 2015–August 2018
Award: $175,586

This project will investigate two main ideas: individualized mental models of privacy, and a universal privacy dashboard. People often have differing mental models of privacy, or preferences that are context-dependent. However, it has been shown that people’s actual decisions or behaviors often divert from their stated privacy preferences. Motivated by the theory of contiguity from learning sciences, this project will examine whether people will make privacy-preserving decisions when their individualized mental models and their decision choices are presented to them contiguously in time and space (e.g., on the same user interface). This project will also explore the universal privacy dashboard as a principled way to provide transparency regarding individual’s mental privacy models and behaviors in two example domains: online tracking and Android app permissions. This dashboard approach will enable people to monitor, reflect, and if technically feasible, directly change their privacy decisions.

Investigator: Wenliang Du, Yang Wang
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: August 2013–August 2018
Award: $845,385

This capacity building project seeks to addresses the lack of opportunities for students for experiential learning of Cybersecurity. It is based on the 30 SEED labs, which were developed and tested by the PI over the last ten years and are used by over 150 instructors from 26 countries. There are two specific objectives of this project: (1) to dramatically increase the number of users of the SEED labs by organizing several summer workshops with about 30 participants each, and by developing free online course modules, one for each lab, using one of the existing Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) platforms; and (2) to develop new hands-on labs to address security of mobile devices which have introduced their unique Cybersecurity problems.

Training, Travel, and Workshop Grants

Investigator: Kevin Crowston
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: January–December 2017
Award: $27,840

This award will support travel for a diverse group of US Ph.D. students and faculty mentors to participate in an international doctoral consortium on research on Free and Open Source Software that will be co-located with the 2017 iConference held on March 22-25, 2017, in Wuhan, China.

Investigator: Joon Park
Sponsor: National Security Agency
Project Period: September 2016–June 2017
Award: $7215

These two awards complete the support of a DPS student seeking a degree in cybersecurity.

Investigator: Deb Nosky
Sponsor: Institute for Veterans and Military Families, funded by Industry Funder
Project Period: August 2016–July 2017
Award: $56,331

The Veterans Career Transition Program is an ongoing program at Syracuse University.  This funding supports curriculum design and modification to help returning veterans to build the skills needed to be productive members of the civilian workforce.

Investigator: Kevin Crowston
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: May 2016–April 2018
Award: $13,272

The purpose of the grant is to support travel for a diverse group of US Ph.D. students and faculty mentors to participate in an international doctoral consortium on research regarding Free and Open Source Software that was co-located with the 12th International Conference on Open Source Systems, 30 May–2 June 2016 in Gothenberg, Sweden.

Investigator: Steve Sawyer
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Project Period: June 2016–May 2018
Award: $25,000

Project Description: The 2016 Summer Institute is designed for doctoral students and other young scholars to help advance their research programs (e.g., dissertation for doctoral students) and leverage, expand, and advance sociotechnical approaches to some of the nation’s (and the world’s) problems regarding the design, development, deployment, uses, and effects of (primarily digital) technologies. The Summer Institute will provide an opportunity for these programs to be shaped through intellectual exchange with accomplished senior scholars as well as enhanced through collaboration with junior investigators. In addition, the Summer Institute will help spread ideas about research on sociotechnical systems within the US and around the world.