UA Little Rock Makes COSMOS a Designated Research Center

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The University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS) Lab has received approval from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to become an established research center on campus.

“By designating COSMOS as a formal center, UA Little Rock will be a leader and pioneer in social media analytics and social media forecasting,” COSMOS Director Nitin Agarwal, Ph.D., said in a news release. “When you look at the transformational research being conducted at COSMOS and the students who have gone on to do great things, it’s nothing short of spectacular.”

University of Arkansas System trustees approved the creation of a new administrative unit for COSMOS in May; the ADHE’s approval followed in July.

Since it began in 2014, COSMOS has brought more than $20 million in research funding to the university from the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. Office of Naval Research, U.S. Air Force Research Lab, U.S. Army Research Office, U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Department of Defense and NATO.

Agarwal and his team of about 30 researchers have studied phenomena that he describes as the good, bad, and the ugly of cyber behaviors, according to the release. These include cyber campaigns promoting Saudi Arabian women’s right to drive; anti-NATO propaganda campaigns; predictive modeling of cyber flash mobs; medical informatics for patient care coordination and engagement; and Russian interference in western democracies.

Argarwal recently received $75,000 from a $140,000 contract UA Little Rock was awarded in partnership with Kairos Research. The contract, awarded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, is to develop a web-based tool and app to detect bot accounts on Twitter.

The COSMOS team is working now with the Arkansas attorney general’s office to identify and track coronavirus-related scams and social media disinformation.

The researchers have also created Blogtrackers and YouTube trackers applications, which track information providers and narratives as misinformation is disseminated through blogs, YouTube and Twitter.

The mission of COSMOS is to coach motivated students to develop solutions for real-world problems that contribute to social good and innovation, the university said. So far, more than 60 college students have worked there.