Nexa Center Annual Report 2015

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Presented in 2015 during the Board of Trustees meeting of the Nexa Center
Raimondo Iemma, Federico Morando, et al.
13 June 2015

The annual report is available in PDF format.

During its 8th year of activity, the Nexa Center improved its role and visibility in the international context, activated promising collaborations in the fields of network measurements and linked open data, and set the stage for new multidisciplinary research threads, e.g., on the Internet of Things.

The Neubot project on network neutrality benefited from joint development carried out with scholars and hackers, which also led to create an App for iOS, to write a library called libight for running network measurements on mobile platforms, and to merge code for mapping the Internet in it. A future plan for Neubot as a platform will also take input from a recently submitted Horizon2020 proposal, ExPONENTE, that connects hackers, users, and policymakers in a collective awareness platform to jointly address network transparency.

Several improvements were applied to TellMeFirst, an open-source software designed for classifying and enhancing documents with natural language processing and linked open data. In particular, we increased software scalability, and the reusability of specific modules.

The launch of a community linked open data platform (complementing the open data portal of the Piedmont Region) represented an occasion to strengthen our collaboration with players operating in that technological domain, and to acquire new competences on the web of data and on data quality, a research area in which we invested more than in the past.

Moreover, we completed a research on the use of open data in the context of the Italian Parliament, in cooperation with the Italian Chamber of Deputies and the Italian Senate.

The Nexa Center is currently in its second year of a research aimed at identifying the legal framework that applies to service robots, and at describing the major legal issues related to their production and usage, such as the implications of data exchange over the cloud, and liability aspects. On a related note, the Nexa Center started a research project on the Internet of Things and its implications with respect to the concept of ownership and the empowerment of European consumers.

Looking at international relations, the Nexa Center took the role of coordinator of the Global Network of Internet & Society Research Centers (NoC) for the period October 2014 – October 2016, with the main objective to contribute creating the most relevant Internet & Society research community worldwide, both as a group of institutions and as a network of individuals.

Besides activities related with the management of the NoC, which also include its online presence, we participated in a joint research activity on governance models to inform the debate on the future Internet Governance. This multifaceted topic was also at the center of an academic symposium – The Evolution of the Internet Governance Ecosystem – co-organized by the Nexa Center and the Berkman Center in October at Politecnico di Torino, in the context of the Network of Centers events series.

As far as the Nexa project life-cycle is concerned, some relatively large EU-funded projects, such as Open-DAI, have come to completion, or are to be completed in the near future. Many of the new projects in the pipeline are arguably smaller in terms of volume and duration, but will allow to incrementally improve the potential of our research activities in many of the fields mentioned above.

The amount and type of financial resources budgeted each year is illustrated in Figure 1 below. As for 2014, the weight of EU funding increases from the previous year, and the same goes with other types of research contracts, while the use of funding from donations drops, but is expected to be higher than ever in 2015. Furthermore, the breakdown shows a progressive reduction in the resources coming from the Piedmont Region. We also consider effort by PoliTO personnel (mainly Juan Carlos De Martin, Alessandro Mantelero and Federico Morando), and from Marco Ricolfi (University of Torino). The outlook for the second half of 2015 is moderately positive, with an overall increase of the available financial resources, which will be translated in new opportunities for collaborations and mobility.