Duncan J. Watts

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Duncan Watts
Watts presenting at iCitizen 2008
Born (1971-02-20) February 20, 1971 (age 53)[3]
NationalityAustralian - Canadian [3]
Alma materUniversity of New South Wales
Cornell University (PhD)
Known forWatts and Strogatz model
Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age[4]
AwardsFellow of the Network Science Society (NetSci), 2018.
Scientific career
FieldsSociology, network science
InstitutionsColumbia University
Microsoft Research
Santa Fe Institute
Yahoo! Research
Nuffield College, Oxford[1]
ThesisThe structure and dynamics of small-world systems (1997)
Doctoral advisorSteven Strogatz[2]

Duncan James Watts (born February 20, 1971) is a sociologist and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.[5] He was formerly a principal researcher at Microsoft Research in New York City, and is known for his work on small-world networks.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]


Watts received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of New South Wales and a PhD in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University,[15] where his advisor was Steven Strogatz.[3]


Watts joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in July 2019 as a PIK Professor. He has joint appointments in Engineering, Communications and Business.

Watts was past external faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute and a former professor of sociology at Columbia University, where he headed the Collective Dynamics Group.[16] He is also author of two books. His first, Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age[4] is based on the six degrees research in his 1998 paper with Steven Strogatz, in which the two presented a mathematical theory of the small world phenomenon.[17] His second book, Everything is Obvious *Once You Know the Answer: How Common Sense Fails Us,[18] explains common errors people make when making decisions especially for groups or organizations, and suggests alternative methods using research and data. He also presents some of his research from Yahoo and Microsoft, and comments on the work of some popular nonfiction writers like Malcolm Gladwell.

Until April 2012, he was a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, where he directed the Human Social Dynamics group.[19] Watts joined Microsoft Research in New York City by its opening on May 3, 2012.[20][21]

Watts describes his research as exploring the "role that network structure plays in determining or constraining system behavior, focusing on a few broad problem areas in social science such as information contagion, financial risk management, and organizational design."[22] More recently he has attracted attention for his modern-day replication of Stanley Milgram's small world experiment using email messages and for his studies of popularity and fads in on-line and other communities.

In Watts's early career, from 2002 to 2007, he was a frequent collaborator of Peter Sheridan Dodds, now at the University of Vermont's Vermont Complex Systems Center.


  1. ^ "Everything is Obvious". Everything is Obvious. 23 April 2018. Archived from the original on 24 August 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  2. ^ Duncan J. Watts at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ a b c d Watts, Duncan James (1997). The structure and dynamics of small-world systems (PhD thesis). Cornell University. ProQuest 304342043.
  4. ^ a b Watts, Duncan (2003). Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-04142-2.
  5. ^ "Duncan Watts, Ph.D. | Annenberg School for Communication". www.asc.upenn.edu. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  6. ^ Watts, D. J. (1999). "Networks, Dynamics, and the Small‐World Phenomenon". American Journal of Sociology. 105 (2): 493–527. CiteSeerX doi:10.1086/210318. S2CID 16479399.
  7. ^ Watts, D. J.; Dodds, P. S.; Newman, M. E. (2002). "Identity and Search in Social Networks". Science. 296 (5571): 1302–1305. arXiv:cond-mat/0205383. Bibcode:2002Sci...296.1302W. doi:10.1126/science.1070120. PMID 12016312. S2CID 466762.
  8. ^ Watts, D. J. (2002). "A simple model of global cascades on random networks". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 99 (9): 5766–5771. Bibcode:2002PNAS...99.5766W. doi:10.1073/pnas.082090499. PMC 122850. PMID 16578874.
  9. ^ Dodds, P. S.; Muhamad, R.; Watts, D. J. (2003). "An Experimental Study of Search in Global Social Networks" (PDF). Science. 301 (5634): 827–829. Bibcode:2003Sci...301..827D. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1081058. PMID 12907800. S2CID 11504171.
  10. ^ Watts, D. J. (2004). "The "New" Science of Networks". Annual Review of Sociology. 30: 243–270. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.30.020404.104342.
  11. ^ Dodds, P.; Watts, D. (2004). "Universal Behavior in a Generalized Model of Contagion". Physical Review Letters. 92 (21): 218701. arXiv:cond-mat/0403699. Bibcode:2004PhRvL..92u8701D. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.92.218701. PMID 15245323. S2CID 2450776.
  12. ^ Watts, D. J. (2005). "Multiscale, resurgent epidemics in a hierarchical metapopulation model". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102 (32): 11157–11162. Bibcode:2005PNAS..10211157W. doi:10.1073/pnas.0501226102. PMC 1183543. PMID 16055564.
  13. ^ Duncan J. Watts's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  14. ^ Clive Thompson (February 2008). "Is the Tipping Point Toast?". Fast Company. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  15. ^ Watts, Duncan (1999). "Duncan Watts". In Loudis, Jessica; Blagojevic, Rosko; Peetz, John Arthur; Rodman, Allison (eds.). Should I go to grad school?: 41 answers to an impossible question. American Mathematical Society. pp. 46–51. ISBN 978-1-62040-598-7.
  16. ^ CDG Collective Dynamics Group Archived 2005-04-02 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Watts, D. J.; Strogatz, S. H. (1998). "Collective dynamics of 'small-world' networks" (PDF). Nature. 393 (6684): 440–442. Bibcode:1998Natur.393..440W. doi:10.1038/30918. PMID 9623998. S2CID 4429113.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ Watts, Duncan (2011). Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer: How Common Sense Fails Us. New York: Crown Business. ISBN 978-0-385-53168-9.
  19. ^ AllThingsDigital (29 April 2012). "Aussie social-network researcher exits Yahoo". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 11 January 2020. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  20. ^ Floridia, Richard. "Why Microsoft Chose New York City" Archived 24 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine, The Atlantic: Cities, 2 May 2012. Retrieved on 8 May 2012.
  21. ^ Knies, Rob. "Microsoft Research Microsoft Research Debuts N.Y.C. Lab", Microsoft Research, 7 May 2012. Retrieved on 8 May 2012.
  22. ^ Home page of Duncan Watts at Yahoo Research Archived 2009-11-28 at the Wayback Machine

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