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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

White House Cites Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Web Science Research on One-Year Anniversary of Data.gov

May 21, 2010

White House Cites Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Web Science Research on One-Year Anniversary of Data.gov

Rensselaer Professor James Hendler Named “Web Expert” Advisor to Data.gov;
Student Dominic DiFranzo Gives Presentation at Washington, D.C., Event

The White House on Friday cited Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for its leadership role in using the Web to promote government transparency. The announcement was made at an event in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the open government Web site, Data.gov.

U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra applauded Rensselaer researchers and students for developing in the past eight months more than 40 applications that use datasets from Data.gov in new and innovative ways. These applications range from easily searching the roster of visitors to the White House and tracking foreign aid across the world to shining light on the ratio of debt to assets for bankrupt companies, Kundra said Friday on the White House Blog.

At the Data.gov anniversary event, Kundra named Rensselaer Professor James Hendler as “Internet Web Expert” for the Data.gov project. In this role, Hendler is charged with assisting the Data.gov team in identifying new and emerging technologies that will maintain and increase the momentum of the site and better allow U.S. citizens to understand and interact with the federal government.

“It's been very exciting working with the Data.gov group,” said Hendler the Tetherless World Constellation professor of Computer and Cognitive Science and assistant dean for Information Technology and Web Science at Rensselaer. “The ‘yes we can’ attitude of this team, and their willingness to explore innovative technologies, has made this an outstanding public-private partnership, and an amazing opportunity for Rensselaer students.”

Hendler, along with fellow Tetherless World Research Constellation professors Deborah McGuinness and Peter Fox, and their students, have created more than 40 applications that “mash up” government data from different sources in meaningful, innovative combinations. At the Washington, D.C., event, Rensselaer graduate student Dominic DiFranzo presented demos of several applications, including one he developed that pairs raw data on ozone and visibility readings with separate geographical data on where the readings were taken. This had not been done before, as the two data sets were released on separate Web sites using differing technologies. The result is a mash-up that plots this combined information in a way that’s interactive, user-friendly, and intuitive. Other demos included mashing up the White House visitor list with information from Wikipedia and Google, mashing up U.S. and British information on aid to foreign nations, and showing a timeline of government agency budgets and New York Times reports on those agencies.

“The goal is to use our technology to create a platform so anyone can quickly and easily create these kinds of data mash-ups,” Hendler said. The Rensselaer team is employing semantic Web technology to design a simple, powerful interface for Web users to pull separate, unconnected data sets from Data.gov and elsewhere and weave them together in meaningful ways.

A full list of the Rensselaer Data.gov demos -- which range from plotting the conservative and liberal tendencies of Supreme Court Justices, to comparing Medicare claims with migration between states, or exploring the list of White House visitors and visitees -- is at: http://data-gov.tw.rpi.edu/wiki/Demos

Last month, Rensselaer launched the nation’s first undergraduate degree program dedicated to the interdisciplinary field of Web Science. Students in this program will investigate issues on the Web related to security, trust, privacy, content value, and the development of the Web of the future. The Web Science program will include faculty from computer science, management, cognitive science, and the humanities, as well as Hendler, McGuinness, and Fox. This month, Rensselaer opened its new Web Science Research Center, which is a founding member of the Web Science Network Trust (WSTNet).

For more information on Rensselaer Data.gov research, visit:

·      http://www.data.gov/semantic/index

·      http://data-gov.tw.rpi.edu/wiki

·      http://data-gov.tw.rpi.edu/wiki/Demos

For more information about Web Science at Rensselaer go to

·      http://tw.rpi.edu/wiki/Web_Science_Research_Center%2C_Rensselaer_Polytechnic_Institute

·      http://tw.rpi.edu/wiki/Tetherless_World_Constellation

·      http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2726

·      http://www.rpi.edu/research/computation/report/tetherlessworld.html

·      http://www.rpi.edu/magazine/spring2008/untangling_the_web.html

For more information on the one-year anniversary of Data.gov, visit:

·      http://www.data.gov/

·      http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/05/sneak-peek-the-obama-administrations-redesigned-datagov/all/1

·      http://www.informationweek.com/news/government/enterprise-apps/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=224900316&subSection=News

Contact: Michael Mullaney
Phone: (518) 276-6161
E-mail: mullam@rpi.edu