CDT showcase to mark the end of Doctoral Training in Web Science

Author: Justyna Jonak 

On the 7th of March 2019, students, academics, alumni gathered together to mark the end of Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) in Web Science and discuss the future of Web Science. By listening to the speeches provided by alumni, we were able to learn, not only how important it was for them to be a part of DTC programme, but also how this experience shaped their future career. If I were asked to summarise their talks in one sentence, I would say: they would have not been where there are now without these exciting opportunities provided by DTC programme –these were the most re-occurring words in their speeches.

As being a Web Scientist student by myself, I can resist from expressing what I feel. I was not taking the full advantages of the opportunities provided by DTC. I was mostly thinking: “I do not have time for it, or “these trips are too technical for me to attend”. From this event, I learnt that doing PhD is not only about sitting at your desk, producing the most polished, publishable work (well, do not get me wrong, for sure it is important, especially when you see yourself staying in academia), but that is not it! It is also about making contacts, bulling networks, collaborating, and gaining new transferable skills. So, the advice for me (and for my colleagues) – grab these opportunities while they last – you never know where you can end up in your future. And if think that you do not have time for these things now, then ask yourself a question: when do you think will you have time?  I cannot think of any other full-time job that provides you with that much flexibility as our PhD. If you were with me at this DTC showcase, you have probably reached to the same conclusion, if you were not there – I am here to share with you my reflection based on talking to alumni: take the full advantage of great things that are organised by DTC. I am not sure if there is another DTC at the University of Southampton, which is organising free trips for students to Singapore or China.

At the end of the day, I felt sentimental that this is the end of DTC and I know some of my colleagues felt in the same way. Thankfully, Dame Wendy Hall did cheer us up with her inspirational talk. While this is the end of DTC, surely, this is not the end of Web Science and further training and opportunities for PhD students will be offered. The Web is not just a technology and it has never been… We need Web Scientists – the experts who do take an interdisciplinary approach in helping to shape the future Web. We have been an exemplar for other universities for doing an interdisciplinary research and recognising the social aspect of Web – mentioned Dame Wendy Hall. There are currently two the most dominant visions of the Web – either data about citizens is heavily controlled by the government (e.g., China), or our data can be heavily regulated by institutions (e.g. the EU), but still, a lot of information is held about us by social media platforms. These visions are not appealing to us and there is still  a lot of work to do. On 12th of March, we are going to celebrate the birth of the World Wide Web – reminded us Dame Wendy.  Tim Berners –Lee – the inventor of  the Web when asked about issues regarding the Web, he answers: – “that is why I set up a Web Science” (well, it was not just him – as Dame Wendy reminded), – “they know the answers” – said Dame Wendy. Hearing these words from a pioneering computer scientist, who was involved in the birth of the Web since its beginnings, it means something. More importantly, it means that there is still loads to do and we (Web Scientist) are greatly needed.

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