Josh Cowls

 Josh Cowls

Josh Cowls works on the Accessing and Using Big Data to Advance Social Science Knowledge project, having previously completed an MSc at the OII.


Josh Cowls joined the OII as a Research Assistant in 2013, to work on the Sloan Foundation-funded project on Accessing and Using Big Data to Advance Social Science Knowledge.

Previously, Josh obtained a BA in History and Politics from the University of Exeter and an MSc in the Social Science of the Internet from the OII. For his MSc thesis he investigated whether and how the online social network Twitter impacts on the traditional agenda setting relationship between the media, politicians and the public.

Josh also has experience in front-line politics, having worked in the Policy Unit of a UK political party and on US presidential and senate campaigns. His research interests include the impact of big data sets on democracy and government, and the new forms and functions of the public sphere facilitated by online social networks.

Research interests

big data, political participation, e-government, agenda setting theory, social networks

Positions held at the OII

  • Research Assistant, September 2013 - August 2015
  • MSc Student, October 2012 - August 2013


Past projects

  • Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities

    January 2014 - March 2015

    The Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities project works with data derived from the UK domain crawl from 1996 to 2013, in order to develop a framework for the study of web archive data and produce a major history of the UK web space.

  • Accessing and Using Big Data to Advance Social Science Knowledge

    October 2012 - May 2014

    The project will follow 'big data' from its public and private origins through open and closed pathways into the social sciences, and document and shape the ways they are being accessed and used to create new knowledge about the social world.



Conference papers

  • Schroeder, R. and Cowls, J. (2014) Big Data, Ethics, and the Social Implications of Knowledge Production. Paper presented at Data Ethics Workshop, KDD@Bloomberg, August 24 2014, New York, NY.


  • Cowls, J. (2014) Mapping the UK Webspace: the topology of a national web domain. Presentation to 'Web Archiving and Archived Web — a new Research Method, a new Object of Study?', Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, June 2014.



  • The Globalist

    16 April 2015 Monocle

    Monicle's broadcast news programme talks to Josh Cowls about the EU antitrust case against Google. (15.30 on the clock)

  • The Briefing

    25 March 2015 Monocle 24

    Josh Cowls talks about diplomacy on twitter after the US Ambassador to Libya left the site as a result of online attacks after she tweeted about an air strike. (from 20.00)

  • Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: who are the world’s most popular football clubs?

    9 December 2014 Guardian Sportblog

    Why the global football clubs are put so much store on scoring via social media. Josh Cowls talks about the online relationships between clubs and their supporters around the world.

  • Why big data has some big problems when it comes to public policy

    28 August 2014 Washington Post

    A feature on the this year’s Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining conference mentions a presentation by Josh Cowls.

  • The Bill Heine Show

    1 June 2014 BBC Radio Oxford

    Josh Cowls joined the Sunday morning discussion show on local BBC Radio Oxford talking about the upsides and downsides of social media. (c17:44 on the clock)