Duncan Watts is the Stevens University Professor and 23rd Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he holds faculty appointments in the Department of Computer and Information Science, The Annenberg School of Communications, and the Operations, Information, and Decisions Department in the Wharton School. He holds a BSc in physics from the University of New South Wales and a PhD in theoretical and applied mechanics from Cornell University. Prior to joining Penn in 2019, Watts was Professor of sociology at Columbia University, from 2000-2007, a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, from 2007-2012, and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, from 2012-2019. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an inaugural fellow of the Network Science Society, and is currently serving as the founding president of the International Society for Computational Social Science.

Research Interests

Watts’ research integrates methods and ways of thinking from the computational and social sciences, often utilizing digital data and platforms, to answer societally relevant questions of theoretical and applied interest. His early work concerned the collective dynamics of networked systems with applications to the spread of epidemics, social influence in decision making, online “viral” phenomena, and inequality and unpredictability in cultural markets. More recently, he has focused on quantifying the production and consumption of news, both online and on television; using GPS location data from mobile devices to infer interpersonal contact networks for the spread of airborne infectious diseases; and developing new approaches to designing “integrative” experiments for social and behavioral science. Finally, he is increasingly interested in meta-scientific questions concerning the commensurability of research designs and the role of narrative in communicating scientific findings.

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Primary Section

Section 53: Social and Political Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 34: Computer and Information Sciences