Intel Funds New Research Center

Sam Barke/New University

UC Irvine has recently been funded by Intel Corporation with a $12.5-million research center, the company announced Tuesday when it opened.

The Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing is devoted to studying the relationships between information, technology and society.

“Our research relies on collaboration between different disciplines: between technical engineering and analysis on one hand and social science on the other, at a very high level, but also between lots of different disciplines within the social sciences and humanities, anthropology, media studies, STS/science and technology studies, design theory, critical theory, [and] gender studies, to name a few,” said Dr. Scott Mainwaring of Interaction and Experience Research (IXR), Intel Labs and the Intel PI for the new Intel Science and Technology Center.

Dr. Paul Dourish, professor of informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at UCI, who will co-lead the center, says that the research they will be doing covers a wide range, including five broad theme areas which include Subjectivities of Information, Creativity and Collectivity, The Materiality of Information, Algorithmic Living and Information Ecosystems.

“Intel approached us as a possible site for the center because of a history of interdisciplinary collaboration on campus, especially between informatics and anthropology, which are the key anchors for this work,” Dourish said. “We have been working together between those departments for some time, and we have each been working with researchers at Intel too, and so it was a natural match.”

The Center is also collaborating with five other campuses, with the hub at UCI and faculty participation from Cornell, NYU, and Georgia schools. In collaboration with researchers from Intel, the center will partake in research that will identify and develop theories, frameworks and methods that will drive new scholarly research, new technology prototypes, policy interventions and areas of innovation, according to the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing.

UCI will receive $5 million over five years for research, and the other universities will be splitting $7.5 million.

Intel’s $100 million program seeks to increase research and aid innovation by allowing universities to connect and collaborate.

“We will be different on campus,  and nationally too, in that we are  the only research center devoted to integrating social science research  questions and methods with information and computer sciences,” said Dr. Bill Maurer, professor and chair of Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences.

“Instead of studying society and technology in isolation from one another, we’re starting from the proposition that they must be studied together, and that we need social science and humanities tools to help us understand our increasingly digital lives,” he said.

UCI has made an agreement with Intel that will place all research products into the public domain. Papers and research results will be available to the public, and any software products can be given out under open source licenses rather than commercial ones.

The idea is to have the result do as much public good and have as much public impact as possible.

“We’re going to be open source, as it were: instead of Intel owning the data or research results that come out of the center, or having a proprietary claim on it, all the research done will take place under an  open intellectual property agreement,” Maurer said.

“So, our results and data can be shared with anyone, and anyone can benefit from our findings. The open IP model befits a public university and is a model for accelerating innovation through the open sharing of data and analysis.”

The center will be funding graduate student researchers and post-docs as well as involving undergraduates in research. Faculty members will get funding for their research projects, mainly to hire graduate and undergraduate student assistants.

“We will be offering a set of fellowships for students working in these areas. One of the most exciting parts of the program is that these students will also have the chance to work not only with leading faculty at UCI but also with the outstanding faculty associated with the center at other institutions,” Dourish said.

“We really want to operate this as a single center that crosses multiple universities and promote cross-site collaboration as much as we can.”

Intel has launched an effort to support university research at a number of U.S.-based “Intel Science and Technology Centers” (ISTCs). The Irvine Center is the seventh to be supported. The ISTC program represents a major investment by Intel in next-generation thinking on computing technology and society.

“We’re really thinking big – we want to use the basic research conducted by faculty and students affiliated with the Center to shape new paradigms for understanding the relationship between technology,” Maurer said.

“We will be studying people using the technology, often using anthropological techniques that get at the local detail of everyday life, and we’ll be looking at technology too, both designing new systems to understand their impacts in situations and examining the histories and evolution of particular interactive experiences and user interfaces. Our research proposal sets out some of the topics and problems we want to examine, from questions of personal privacy in an information age to ways of understanding how new technologies shape our collective experience of the everyday world.”

The Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing is located in the sixth floor of Donald Bren Hall.