News Release

Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for AI combines Computer Science and Social Sciences at Saarland University

Grant and Award Announcement

Saarland University

Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for AI

image: Ingmar Weber, Humboldt-Professor for AI view more 

Credit: Thorsten Mohr

Computer scientist Ingmar Weber will take up an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for Artificial Intelligence at Saarland University in the coming winter semester (2022/2023). The professorships of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation are the most highly-endowed science awards in Germany. For scientists working experimentally they are sponsored with five million euros over five years and are financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Ingmar Weber's research focus is "societal computing", a relatively new subfield of computer science (CS) that interdisciplinarily combines computer science with the social sciences. Ingmar Weber devotes his research to problems of societal scope, using CS methods to investigate them. "My work is based on the question of how we can use the methods of computer science to understand and to improve our society," says Ingmar Weber.

Societal computing can be divided into two directions: Into computing of society and computing for society. One example that combines both is the analysis of migration streams using publicly available social media data: "We can use this data to trace refugee movements almost in real time and calculate how the population structure has changed or will change in a particular area. This enables us, for example, to make statements about whether there are more women and children in an area," explains Ingmar Weber. With this knowledge, humanitarian organizations and governments can make more accurate decisions about the situation in the field and adapt their humanitarian measures accordingly.

Ingmar Weber and collaborators have already put this into practice in the context of the Ukraine war and published their work as a preprint. However, his most cited work to date deals with the automated detection of hate speech on the Internet. He also works on gender equality topics and on the question of how information and news spreads on the Internet. Public health topics are also among his areas of focus.

To ensure that his research findings directly benefit society, Ingmar Weber works closely with various stakeholders - including the United Nations, the European Commission, various non-governmental organizations and humanitarian aid organizations. Oftentimes, his research questions originate from these collaborations. "Last April, I had the privilege of virtually addressing the UN General Assembly and present the results of a research project on the 'Digital Gender Gap', outlining how men and women differ in their access to digital technologies," says Ingmar Weber. "The excellent computer science research environment at the Saarland Informatics Campus together with the international, Europe-oriented orientation of Saarland University offer outstanding conditions for my research," the computer scientists adds.

"We are very happy to have won a top international scientist like Ingmar Weber for our location with the help of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. This significantly strengthens our computer science focus with the equally current and socially relevant research area of "Societal Computing". This first AvH/KI professorship here at Saarland University will foster new and pioneering bridges to other disciplines and scientific areas, both within our university and in international cooperation," says University President Manfred Schmitt.

Weber moves to Saarbrücken for the Humboldt Professorship from the "Qatar Computing Research Institute" of the "Hamad Bin Khalifa University" in Doha, Qatar.

Background Alexander von Humboldt Professorships

The aim of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorships is to attract top scientists who are leaders in their field from abroad to Germany as a research location. Since 2009, up to ten Humboldt Professorships have been awarded each year for this purpose. In 2020, the Alexander von Humboldt Professorships for Artificial Intelligence (AI) were additionally introduced, of which up to 30 more can be filled by 2024. Humboldt Professorships are endowed with 5 million euros for scientists working experimentally and with 3.5 million euros for researchers working theoretically; the funding period is five years. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation's AI professorships are part of the Federal Government's national AI strategy.

Further information: Press release Humboldt Foundation


Douglas R. Leasure, Ridhi Kashyap, Francesco Rampazzo, Benjamin Elbers, Claire Dooley, Ingmar Weber, Masoomali Fatehkia, Maksym Bondarenko, Mark D. Verhagen, Arun Frey, Jiani Yan, Evelina Akimova, Alessandro Sorichetta, Andrew J Tatem, Melinda C. Mills; Ukraine Crisis: Monitoring population displacement through social media activity

Press photographs are available on this website.

Background Saarland Informatics Campus:
900 scientists (including 400 PhD students) and about 2100 students from more than 80 nations make the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) one of the leading locations for computer science in Germany and Europe. Five world-renowned research institutes, namely the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, the Center for Bioinformatics and the Cluster for "Multimodal Computing and Interaction" as well as Saarland University with three departments and 24 degree programs cover the entire spectrum of computer science. 

Press contact and editor:
Philipp Zapf-Schramm
Saarland Informatics Campus
Phone: +49 681 302-70741

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