Yahoo! Research Expands Team into Social Sciences

Yahoo! has hired some world-renowned authorities in Sociology and Economics to their staff–all in an effort to shape the future of the internet. Yahoo! is expanding the Yahoo! Research organization by adding two leading scientists, Dr. R. Preston McAfee and Dr. Duncan Watts to their team.

Yahoo! Research is trying to build a “world-class research team” which is “focused on developing the science that will underlie the next generation of technologies and businesses that will help shape the future of the Web. The work done by McAfee and Watts, in the disciplines of economics and sociology, respectively, will contribute to Yahoo! Research’s mission of publishing pioneering scientific work and building a better Web experience for the 500 million users of Yahoo! branded services.”

Yahoo! current has three other research fellows in the company, Andrei Broder, Raghu Ramakrishnan and Larry Tesler.

Dr. R. Preston McAfee was named vice president and research fellow. Dr. Mcafee will lead Yahoo!’s microeconomics research group. The microeconomics research group focuses on market mechanism design, pricing, auctions and matching mechanisms that affect monetization. Dr. R. Preston has a website here and there’s more information here on the California Institute of Technology page. His faculty profile is here. What’s interesting is that Dr. Mcafee has ties to Texas:

From 1997 to 2003, McAfee was the Murray S. Johnson Chair in Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. From 1990 to 1997, McAfee was the Rex G. Baker, Jr., Professor of Political Economy at the University of Texas. McAfee is the author of over sixty articles published in scholarly economics journals, many of them on auctions and bidding, and co-author of a book Incentives in Government Procurement.

Previously, Dr. R. Preston McAfee worked for the California Institute of Technology, where he was the J. Stanley Johnson professor of business, economics and management. He is an authority on industrial organization and an economist who combines theory and business applications. He has written books on microeconomics and competitive strategy. McAfee earned an MA in Economics and Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Economics from Purdue University.

Dr. Duncan Watts is a social networking expert. Starting in the fall, Dr. Duncan Watts will lead Yahoo!’s research in human social dynamics, including the structure and evolution of social groups and networks, social influence and collective decisions, networking and collaborative problem solving. Dr. Duncan Watts previously worked for Columbia University, where he was professor of sociology and director of the Collective Dynamics Group.

While at Columbia, Dr. Duncan Watts explored the role that network structure plays in determining or constraining system behavior, focusing on areas such as information contagion, financial risk management, and organizational design. Dr. Duncan Watts is the author of the book “Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age.” Dr. Watts received a B.Sc. in physics from the University of New South Wales, and a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics from Cornell University.

Here’s the book by Dr. Duncan Watts:

Six Degrees attempts to help readers understand the new and exciting field of networks and complexity. While considerably more demanding than a general book like The Tipping Point, it offers readers a snapshot of a riveting moment in science, when understanding things like disease epidemics and the stock market seems almost within our reach. –Therese Littleton

Yahoo! Research is integrated with other Yahoo! business units and Yahoo! product teams throughout the company. This enables the scientific approach and expertise of the organization to directly benefit Yahoo!’s consumers and advertisers. For example, Yahoo! has incorporated algorithmic research into the company’s advanced platforms for social media and search, which allow users to find and share the information that they want, when they want. Yahoo! has also leveraged research on marketplace design and pricing mechanisms for sponsored search. This collaboration will continue as Dr. McAfee and Dr. Watts apply the disciplines of economics and sociology to better understand and monetize social networks.

Yahoo! Inc. is a leading global Internet brand and one of the most trafficked Internet destinations worldwide. Yahoo!’s mission is to connect people to their passions, their communities, and the world’s knowledge. Yahoo! is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California.

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