Small-World Networks Pioneer Duncan Watts Wins USC Annenberg 2014 Everett M. Rogers Award

Duncan Watts, principal researcher at Microsoft Research and path-breaking investigator of our connected age, is the recipient of the 2014 Everett M. Rogers Award.

Watts’ first paper, “Collective Dynamics of ‘Small-World’ Networks,” co-authored with his doctoral advisor Steven Strogatz and published in the journal Nature in 1998, just a year after he got his Cornell Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics, quickly became a blueprint for network science, and it has been cited more than 23,000 times — one of the most-cited papers in any field in the past two decades. As he recounts in his book “Six Degrees,” his research on the Kevin Bacon Game and connectedness ultimately led him to insights about how influences like diseases, rumors, cultural fads, financial crises and social unrest propagate through a human population.

The award honors the late Everett M. Rogers, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School who originated diffusion of innovation theory and introduced the term “early adopters.” Presented since 2007 on behalf of USC Annenberg by its Norman Lear Center, the award recognizes outstanding scholars and practitioners whose work has made a fundamental contribution to areas of Rogers's legacy.

In the Forum of the school’s new Wallis Annenberg Hall on Thursday, November 20 at 12 p.m., Watts will present Social Influence in Markets and Networks: What’s So Viral About “Going Viral?” He will describe the surprising difficulty of empirically identifying social influence, which – despite the metaphor of “going viral” – doesn’t necessarily spread in anything like the way that infectious diseases do. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVP is required.

Duncan Watts is a founding member of the Microsoft Research-New York City lab. From 2000 to 2007, he was a professor of sociology at Columbia University, and then, prior to joining Microsoft, a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, where he directed the Human Social Dynamics Group. His most recent book is “Everything Is Obvious Once You Know the Answer: How Common Sense Fails Us.”