2021-01-14: Review of WS-DL's 2020

Is there a more definitive 2020 academic image than a Zoom window?

Despite the challenges of Covid-19's impact on education, the Web Science and Digital Libraries (WS-DL) Research Group had a successful year, doing the best we could under the circumstances.  Most importantly, we graduated three Ph.D. students and one M.S. student, and added to our ranks five incoming graduate students and one instructor.  

Students and Faculty

We were fortunate enough to graduate three Ph.D. students this year.  Unfortunately, because of Covid all three defenses were over Zoom and we were unable to have our normal post-defense celebratory feast.  

As of September 2020, @WebSciDL now has six faculty:

  • Dr. Faryaneh Poursardar (@Faryane) joined us from Christopher Newport University.  She received her Ph.D. from the Center for the Study of the Digital Libraries (CSDL) at Texas A&M University, and her research interests include Computer Human Information Interaction, Data Science, Machine Learning and Data Mining, Information Retrieval, Digital Libraries, Web Archives, Digital Data Preservation, and Social Computing.

We continue to offer an unrivaled array of graduate and advanced undergraduate courses covering a range of WS-DL topics.  In Spring 2020 we offered four courses (Research Methods, Web Sciences, AI, Data Mining) and in Fall 2020 we offered a record seven courses (Web Programming, Web Science, Data Science & Analytics, Data Vis, Mining Scholarly Big Data, NLP, and Web Archiving Forensics).  

We added five graduate students this year:

We also had one person advance from Ph.D. "student" to "candidate" (sadly, no crush board pic due to Covid):

  • Bathsheba Farrow became a Ph.D. candidate on 2020-07-08: "Technological Advancements in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Detection"

Publications and Presentations

With the growth of our group, it is now hard to construct a definitive list of WS-DL publications (compounded by, for example, Dr. Wu still occasionally publishing astronomy papers).  With that caveat, the WS-DL publication total in 2020 was: four journal articles, 30 conference and workshop papers (including two best poster /demo winners and one best poster nomination at JCDL), and five technical reports.   Some of the highlights include:

Research presentations and outreach

Covid introduced an interesting paradox: on one hand, after mid-March all in-person meetings were cancelled, postponed, or switched to virtual (for example, I had scheduled seminars at LANL, Indiana University, and DANS that did not happen).  On the other hand, remote participation enabled broader attendance for our members that would not have otherwise been able to attend, such as conferences for which we had not even submitted papers (e.g., TPDL in France and SIGIR in China; see our trip reports for more).

Before the March lockdown, we were able to attend, host, or support a few activities:

After mid-March, all events became virtual / remote participation (not including conference paper presentations):


Software, data sets, services

Our scholarly output is not limited to conventional publications or presentations: we also advance the state of the art through releasing software, data sets, and proof-of-concept services.  Some of the software, data sets, and services that we either initially released or made significant updates to in the course of 2020 include:

Other contributions

Our research group made a number of other contributions in 2020 that do not neatly fit into any of the above categories.  Some of the highlights include:

Awards and Recognition

Many members of our group received awards and other forms of recognition:


This year we received five external grants (> $380k) and one internal grant:

2021 -- it can only get better, right?

For everyone, 2020 presented a host of challenges.  The spring 2021 semester begins with little changed from 2020, but we expect that by this summer or fall things should return to "normal", even though we will likely have a new "normal".  Academically, this will likely include increased prevalence of on-line and hybrid courses, remote participation in conferences and defenses, and increased comfort with remote work.  We have a number of exciting proposals and projects in the pipeline, and we look to their launch in 2021. 

WS-DL annual reviews are also available for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.  But don't wait for the annual reviews, follow us at @WebSciDL to keep up to date with our activities.  Finally, we thank all those who have complimented us: our blog, students, publications, code, or the WS-DL research group in general.  We really appreciate the feedback, some of which we include below.