Robert Ackland is currently a Fellow in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University (ANU). He has degrees in economics from the University of Melbourne and Yale University (where he was a Fulbright Scholar), and was awarded a PhD in economics from the ANU in 2001. Robert’s PhD research was in the application of index number theory to global comparisons of income and poverty. Since 1994, he has worked as a consultant in poverty analysis and targeting for organisations such as The World Bank (based in Washington DC, 1995-1997), Asian Development Bank and AusAID.

In 2002, Robert moved into a new area of research at the intersection of information science and empirical social science – the development of new methods (and associated e-Research tools) for quantitative analysis of social and economic phenomena on the Internet. Robert is developing research methods that combine information retrieval, data visualisation and more traditional quantitative social science methods such as social network analysis. He is applying these methods in new research into political party networking on the WWW, the abortion debate online, and online environmental activism.

In 2007, Robert was awarded a National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS) Visiting Fellowship and a James Martin Visiting Fellowship, and is spending six months at OII pursuing his research into online networks and continuing development of the VOSON e-research tool (

Research interests

e-research, webmetrics

Positions held at the OII

  • Research Associate, October 2008 – September 2011
  • Visiting Fellow, March – September 2007


Past projects

  • World Wide Web of Humanities

    Participants: Professor William H. Dutton, Professor Ralph Schroeder, Dr Robert Ackland, Professor Eric T. Meyer, Dr Christine Madsen

    Establishing a framework for e-Humanities research using available open source tools and technologies and archived web content to create novel research interfaces to the first of many, scholarly, e-Humanities web collections.

  • Performance of distributed problem-solving networks

    Participants: Professor William H. Dutton, Professor Paul Allan David, Dr Tobias Escher, Dr Wolf Richter, Dr Matthijs den Besten, Dr Max Loubser, Dr Robert Ackland, David A. Bray, Irene Cassarino, Karen Croxson, Professor Jean-Michel Dalle, Dr Aldo Geuna, Dr Jukka-Pekka Onnela, Felix Reed-Tsochas, Philipp Tuertscher

    Addressing the uncertainties that surround the coordination and performance of 'Distributed Problem Solving Networks' (DPSN), as well as the areas in which these new Internet-based forms offer advantages over more familiar modes of problem-solving.

  • VOSON: Virtual Observatory for the Study of Online Networks

    Participants: Dr Steve Ward, Dr Robert Ackland, Professor Bruce Bimber, Markus Buchhorn, Dr Rachel Gibson, Dr Mathieu O'Neil

    The first stage in the establishment of a 'Virtual Observatory for the Study of Online Networks': a Grid-enabled research environment facilitating cutting-edge collaborative research into the existence and impact of online social and political networks.