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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N006062/1
Title: Reputation, Trust, and Privacy in the Sharing Economy: A Network Science Approach
Principal Investigator: Livan, Dr G
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
OECD
Department: Computer Science
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 January 2016 Ends: 31 December 2020 Value (£): 807,635
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Complexity Science Economics
Human-Computer Interactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
15 Sep 2015 EPSRC Digital Economy Fellowship Interviews - Sept 2015 Announced
15 Jul 2015 EPSRC ICT Prioritisation Panel - Jul 2015 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project will develop a complete statistical description of distributed online systems where interactions between users are driven by reputation. Such systems are epitomised by the emerging online marketplaces of the sharing economy, such as Airbnb or Uber, where "micro entrepreneurs" and customers build a reputation through an online peer-review process.

Recent estimates project revenues from the top five sectors of the UK sharing economy to reach £9 billion within the next ten years. Such a fast growth will dramatically increase the interconnectedness between different online marketplaces and their users. This, in turn, will bring about the need to promote trust on large scales by merging the reputations developed by the same users on different platforms. Indeed, a few startup companies already offer embryonic services whose users receive a portable reputation score based on the aggregate of their public online activity. Similar practices will require digital personhood to become more and more transparent to others, with serious implications to online privacy.

This project will address the interplay between reputation, trust, and privacy lying at the core of the sharing economy. In order to do so, it will start from the observation that the sharing economy is a large complex network of interactions. As such, it falls squarely within the realm of application of Statistical Physics and Complexity Science, where collective macroscopic behaviour emerges from local interactions between elementary components. By taking this perspective, this project will produce a network vision of the sharing economy by first analysing data from platforms where reputation-driven interactions are at play, and by studying how reputation and trust between users form in online environments with the methods of Experimental Psychology. Then, by building upon this empirical and behavioural knowledge, network models capable of reproducing and predicting the macroscopic behaviour of coplex online marketplaces will be designed.

The project's high-level objectives are:

1. To identify the main empirical and behavioural regularities of online marketplaces driven by reputation

2. To model trust and efficiency in sharing economies as collective network phenomena emerging from the interactions between users

3. To model the effects of reputation aggregation in realistic multi-platform sharing economies

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