The iSchools Doctoral Dissertation Award Committee have announced the 2021 honorees. The winner is Jessica Pater, who received her Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Interactive Computing. The runner up is Souvick Ghosh, who received his Ph.D. from the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information and is now an assistant professor at the San Jose State University School of Information.
The Schools Doctoral Dissertation Award is an annual competition recognizing the year’s most outstanding dissertations from across iSchools membership. Introduced in 2013, award nominations are solicited from all member schools and subjected to a thorough review by the Doctoral Dissertation Committee. The 2021 Award selection process was chaired by George Buchanan of the University of Melbourne iSchool and Udo Kruschwitz of the iSchool at Universität Regensburg.
Dr. Pater’s winning dissertation is titled Digital Self-Harm: Implications of Eating Disordered Behaviors Online. Here is what the Committee had to say about this year’s winner:
The thesis addressed a significant and highly sensitive social problem, taking an intellectually rigorous approach that has widespread potential impact.
Reviewers commented that the thesis demonstrates careful scholarship, with a “clear engagement with previous literature” and a “systematic review, with excellent synthesis”. The method is highlighted as including “not one, but a set of case studies” that thoroughly develop and test the thesis’ hypothesis in a robust process.
The panel also noted that the research presented has value for the wider information science community now, and in the future: “there is a clear case that the thesis confirms, but also alters much of our existing theories on social impacts of information”, and “the ideas created and presented transcend the topic studied”.
Most importantly, the social applicability and benefit of the research are tangible, presenting a “compelling case” for both the research and the problem it addresses. Overall the thesis, in the words of one reviewer “is a clear example case for the vital value of information science for the global community”.
Dr. Ghosh’s dissertation is titled Exploring Intelligent Functionalities of Spoken Conversational Search Systems. Here is what the Committee had to say about the runner-up:
This thesis was recommended and highly rated throughout the review process, and it addresses an increasingly common new technology.
The judges applauded the approach taken saying it “uses many diverse methods”, combines “reliable and well-considered use of statistics” and, vitally possesses a “stress on reliability”. The methodology is strong. It draws not only on the traditions of information and library science, but also draws on computer science. Methods include “[a] laboratory-based user study; wizard-of-oz; [and] implementation”. As one reviewer put it “this is an ideal demonstration of contemporary, computing-literate information science”.
The increasing potential of conversational agents was noted by judges—“this technology is still developing, and is likely to see increasing adoption worldwide”—while it still “really needs to be analysed from an information science perspective”.
As a result, the thesis combines the use of developing methods, an emerging technology, and is also true to “the best traditions of our field”.
Visit the Doctoral Dissertation Award results page for more about this year's honorees, and also previous award recipients.
The winner of the 2021 Doctoral Dissertation Award receives a cash prize of $2,500; the runner up receives $1,000. Both honorees will also receive a complimentary registration for iConference 2021, the iSchools virtual information conference taking place March 17-31, 2021.
The iSchools organization will begin accepting nominations for next year’s Award in July of this year. All members are encouraged to submit a nomination.