Social Informatics Lab (SILab)

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Information doc: 

Rob WilsonSenior Lecturer, Newcastle University Business School (NUBS), Newcastle University, CITYWALL, Citygate, St James' Boulevard, Gallowgate, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, NE1 4JHTel: +44 (0)191 2430790


Effective member: 

The contexts of transformation, innovation and partnership across organisational, cultural and disciplinary boundaries that have generated the ideas and practice of the Social Informatics Laboratory precisely match the challenges facing Newcastle University both internally, in maintaining and developing its research base, and externally in its engagement with the Region and beyond. Collaboration is a core business modality of a research led university and the creation and sustenance of collaborative structures and mechanisms are one of its core means of acting in and as a community. We expect that our membership into European Network of Living Labs would reinforce our commitment towards both maintaining and developing our research base to enable and promote interdisciplinary and partnership working as well as our future engagement in the Region and beyond.

Description of Concept

Newcastle University is home for a number of internationally renowned Research Institutes (such as Policy and Practice, Informatics, Health and Society, Energy and Environment) across the North East of England, which have evolved through local initiative and which underline our interdisciplinary research intensive status. In 2004 the UK Government designated Newcastle a 'Science City' in recognition of its achievements in science and technology. Our overall objective is that the Social Informatics Laboratory (SILab) will provide the tools, facilities and the capacity to actively initiate, support and deliver multidisciplinary partnership based working. It contains a plan to: 

- Assemble and develop the technical visualisation, instrumentation and simulation tools required to support mutual sense making and the co-production of visions and plans. A consequence of the use of these tools, in the form which we propose, is the configuration and governance of a set of information and communications services and applications on which collaborative working can be delivered.

- Augment existing media-rich spaces within the University so they provide access to the tools and services and the contexts and resources to study and theorise the innovation processes that take place in and around them.

- Deliver and evaluate a series of internal initiatives in active partnership formation, multidisciplinary development and innovation across the University with particular reference to the multi-agency partnership and innovation challenges of Science City.

- Through the expansion of our portfolio of third strand and research activities and relationships, develop a community of practice around the SILab concept of support for co-production.   

References and Track Record 

Since 2000, a series of research projects and third strand activates undertaken by the Social and Business Informatics Group (now known as Public Service Innovation Group) and funded by the EPSRC, ESRC, Central Government Departments (ODPM, DCSF, DOH) and the EU, have provided the context for the development of new approaches to the active facilitation of partnership formation, collaboration and innovation processes. These represent a synthesis of a number of facilitation, learning and sense-making tools and techniques combined with an approach to the articulation of the architectural discourse of socio-technical systems which was developed in the Centre for Software Reliability, Newcastle University over a much longer time span. Our research has been focused in the context of multi-agency partnership development both in social and health care, economic development and public administration. Currently the Social and Business Informatics Group is a partner of an EU funded project – OLDES – ( – which aims to offer new technological solutions to improve the quality of life of older people. The project is part of the European Union’s Information Society Technologies (IST) Framework 6 Programme (FP6) for ‘Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) for the Ageing Society’. The OLDES project involves a collaboration of public health and social care providers, system suppliers, and intermediary research organizations.