The ARL Social Cognitive Network Academic Research Center (SCNARC) has been created and funded as a part of the US Army Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance together with three other centers focusing on different kinds of networks. The funding of SCNARC comes predominantly from the U.S. Army and the Army Research Laboratory which plays the key role in guiding the research directions of NS CTA. The principal member of the Center is Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute while the remaining members are City University of New York, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Laboratory, and Northeastern University. The Center specializes in supporting Trust, Influence, Modeling and Enhancement of Human Performance (TIME) Thrust and includes collaborators from the Army Research Laboratory, Northwestern University, Carnegie Melon University, University of California, Santa Barbara, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, University of Notre Dame, and Raytheon BBN Technologies.

Rapid growth of web-based social networks has redefined social interactions. Web-based networks do not require personal, direct contact but at the same time they provide rich traces of data about their activities.  These kinds of social networks and the behaviors that govern their dynamics and evolution are the subject of our research. The Center’s current work is organized into five projects focusing on fundamental science and its applications ranging from military to industrial to personal. One project, led by Dr. Ching-Yung Lin of IBM, investigates social networks in formal organizations. The research aims at answering questions such as “Does mentoring improve performance of mentorees in the organization?”, or “How is the structure of social networks influenced by the formal organizational chart?”, and “How can vast volume of data about social networks be efficiently stored and accessed?” In a military setting, the questions are “How does the pattern of interactions within a military unit affect performance of tasks?” or “What kinds of ties with communities external to the Army are necessary for success?” Another project, led by Prof. Malik Magdon-Ismail of RPI, studies hidden communities adversary to the prevailing ideologies that often arise within large interacting groups existing in the Internet. For example, some terrorist cells develop through electronic communications. The basic questions are “How can we use the massive streams of data to detect adversarial networks?” and “How do adversary networks evolve?”. The project also will further our understanding of how information flows within such networks. The project on cognitive aspects of social networks is led by Prof. Wayne Gray of RPI. The main focus of this research is to understand how limits of human cognition influence our interaction over the networks, how they dictate the way in which the network information should be presented, and how to include such limitations in realistic models of network interactions. The project will also investigate how a social and cognitive network can quickly extract the most meaningful information for the soldier and decision maker that is useful in all aspects of their operations; from supporting humanitarian operations to force protection and full combat operations.

Several of our projects are conducted in close collaboration with other centers of the Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance and its three other centers, focusing respectively on computer, information and integrated networks. These highly collaborative and integrative projects focus on two areas. The first is trust in social networks, and this group of projects is lead by Prof. Sibel Adali of RPI. Our center contributes research on issues such as, how trust arises between members of social networks, how trust defines spread of information, or how to measure trust based on repeated interactions between social agents. The other group of projects focuses on the evolution and dynamics of integrated and composite networks. Prof. Albert Laszlo Barabasi of Northeastern University leads the team that focuses on deriving data-driven models and understanding human mobility. In this task, as in our other work at the Center, we strive to combine theoretically derived computational models for network science with empirical verification of those models by the collected data. Prof. Sandy Pentland of MIT researches how such an approach may lead to deeper understanding of human interactions. 

Network Science and Technology Center (NEST)

At RPI, SCNARC is part of the Network Science and Technology Center (NEST) led by Director, Prof. Boleslaw K. Szymanski. The NEST Center is focused on the fundamental research and engineering of natural and technological networks, ranging from social and cognitive networks to computer networks. The fundamental understanding of network structures and dynamic processes arising in them combined with the novel designs of protocols for communication and algorithms for applications will enable experts in the fields ranging from sociology, to biology, medicine, physics, computer science and engineering and transportation engineering to apply the results of the center research in their specific disciplines.

NEST research studies the fundamental properties of networks, the processes underlying their evolution and the paradigms for network engineering to enhance their efficiency, reliability, robustness and other desirable properties. Research on natural networks, such as social and cognitive networks in which people interact over a variety of means, focuses on cognitive models of net-centric interactions, models and algorithms of community creation and evolution, impact of mobility on network formation, dependencies between social, information and communication networks and spread of opinions and ideologies among network nodes. Research on technological networks, such as computer, transportation and energy distribution networks, focuses on their optimal design from the point of view of flow maximization, fault tolerance to failure, graceful degradation in case of partial damage, etc. In communication networks, the Center develops and studies network protocols and algorithms, especially for wireless and sensor networks and studies system issues in interoperability of communication networks with computer systems. NEST actively transitions the developed protocols and algorithms to industrial practice and commercialization.

Network Science-Collaborative Technology Alliance (NS-CTA)

The NS-CTA program brings together government, industry and academic institutions to perform foundational, cross-cutting research for a fundamental understanding of interactions, interdependencies, and common underlying science among social/cognitive, information, and communications networks. Prediction and control of the composite behavior of these complex interacting networks will ultimately enhance effectiveness in network-enabled warfare and counterinsurgency. To this end, NS CTA establishes four closely collaborating Network Research Centers: Information Networks Academic Research Center (INARC), Communications Networks (CNARC), Social-Cognitive Networks (SCNARC), and Interdisciplinary Research Center (IRC).

Awarded in September 2009, the program is a fundamental research effort of potentially $166M over ten years with a team of principal members in the consortium that includes Raytheon BBN Technologies (IRC lead), Penn State (CNARC lead), University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (INARC lead), and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (SNARC lead). The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) has appointed Dr. Alexander Kott as the Collaborative Alliance Manager (CAM). He will form and lead the government Research Management Board (RMB) with representation from Research Development and Engineering Centers, other Services, and Other Government Agencies.