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The Social and Information Sciences Laboratory

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The Social and Information Sciences Laboratory - SISL, pronounced "sizzle" - studies how markets and other social systems function in a world in which economics can no longer be separated from the information and communication systems around us. Originally established with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, SISL now continues thanks to Caltech’s Ronald and Maxine Linde Institute of Economic and Management Sciences (the Linde Institute). SISL brings together researchers from economics, computer science, engineering, and mathematics in a truly interdisciplinary environment (given the 10+ years that SISL has been active, it is sometimes hard to tell the computer scientists from the economists and vice versa).

With The Linde Institute’s ongoing support, faculty, postdocs and graduate students come together regularly for Linde Institute/SISL seminars as well as SISL-organized workshops and conferences. Through these events and their publications, SISL researchers strive to improve the basic sciences of complex markets and social/communication networks while helping to develop our understanding of the emerging interaction between the two.

Some of the specific topics being investigated by SISL researchers include:


Sensitive information is held by an enormous variety of entities, particularly in today's online world. Some of the challenges in handling it include developing principled models and definitions for privacy guarantees, along with privacy-preserving algorithms and provable bounds on how information privacy can be traded off against its usefulness. Integrating notions of privacy into utility theoretic and decision theoretic frameworks will provide us with more sophisticated means of reasoning about sensitive information. Work in this area is led by Federico Echenique.

Social and Economic Networks

The precise structure of social interactions can impact a variety of behaviors and outcomes—learning a new computer or spoken language may depend on the number of acquaintances who already know it, information about job openings may flow through word-of-mouth interactions, financial investments and outcomes may depend on the underlying connections between firms, etc. These observations have opened the door to an array of theoretical and empirical questions: How do individuals and organizations strategically interact with neighbors on complex social and economic networks? What are network architectures that are more conducive to diffusion of behavior and financial outcomes? How do we quantify the impacts of these networks on outcomes using field and experimental data? Work in this area is led by Leeat Yariv and Omer Tamuz.

Rethinking Electricity Markets

Over the coming decade, the electricity network will undergo a complete architectural transformation, similar to what has happened to the communication network over the last decades. However, there are huge engineering and economic challenges in making this transformation possible. A key challenge for this transformation is the fact that the economic market structure and engineering architecture are inherently intertwined in the electricity grid, which necessitates a new architectural theory for guiding this transformation. Work in this area is led by Mani Chandy, Adam Wierman, John Ledyard, and Steven Low. More details can be found at the Smart Grid project page and the Resnick Institute website.

Network Economics

It is almost impossible to study computer networks today without considering economic issues. Economics plays a defining role in routing (e.g., hot-potato routing and net neutrality) and further, economics has come to play a major role in how protocols are designed and analyzed (e.g., the analysis of TCP and the design of BitTorrent). In fact, even the study of cloud computing cannot be isolated from the strategic economic interactions with respect to pricing and provisioning between infrastructure providers and the services that run on top of them. Work in this area is led by Adam Wierman and Steven Low.

Computational Advertising

Extracting revenue from search algorithms increasingly depends on sophisticated computational algorithms for advertising. Many of these algorithms are based on auction theory. Research in this area thus requires very close interaction between computation and economics. Caltech was at the forefront of computational advertising right from the inception of its use on the Internet. Our involvement began with work on the generalized second-price auction in concert with (which morphed into Overture, which morphed into Yahoo), the company that originated the use of auctions for location on search results pages. This work was both theoretical and experimental and was led by Matthew Jackson, John Ledyard, and Simon Wilkie. Later, more advanced and computationally intensive advertising work was led by Preston McAfee for webpages and John Ledyard for television and radio advertising.

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Core Faculty

     Marina Agranov, Assistant Professor of Economics

Marina Agranov
Professor of Economics

Kim Border
Professor of Economics

Mani Chandy
Simon Ramo Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus

  Laura Doval Laura Doval
Assistant Professor of Economics

Federico Echenique
Allen and Lenabelle Davis Professor of Economics

John Ledyard
Allen and Lenabelle Davis Professor of Economics and Social Sciences, Emeritus

        Steven Low
Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Charles Plott
William D. Hacker Professor of Economics and Political Science
Luciano Pomatto Luciano Pomatto
Assistant Professor of Economics
  Omer Tamuz
Assistant Professor of Economics and Mathematics
Adam Wierman
Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences; Executive Officer for Computing and Mathematical Sciences; Director, Information Science and Technology
Leeat Yariv
Professor of Economics


Affiliated Faculty

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Recent Alumni


Graduate Students // Current

Graduate Students // Recent Alumni

  • Elizabeth Bodine-Baron, RAND Corporation
  • Subhonmesh Bose, Cornell University
  • Desmond Cai, A*Star Research
  • Agostino Capponi, Columbia
  • Lijun Chen, U. Colorado at Boulder
  • Khai Chiong, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Jernej Copic, UCLA
  • Rachel Cummings, Georgia Tech
  • Jon Eguia, NYU
  • Masoud Farivar
  • Guilherme Freitas
  • Ragavendran Gopalakrishnan, U. Colorado at Boulder
  • Jin Huang
  • Shankar Kalyanaraman, Facebook
  • Ling Li, DE Shaw
  • Na Li, Harvard
  • Minghong Lin, Facebook
  • Sera Linardi, University of Pittsburgh
  • Zhenhua Liu, Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University
  • Guido Maretto, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal
  • Laurent Mathevet, University of Texas at Austin
  • Debrah Meloso, Università Bocconi, Italy
  • Mohamed Mostagir, University of Michigan
  • Jayakrishnan Nair, IIT Bonbay
  • Laura Panattoni, University of Auckland
  • Concetta Pilotto, Purdue University
  • Amrit Pratap
  • Brian Rogers, Northwestern
  • Julian Romero, Purdue
  • Ao (Kevin) Tang, Cornell University
  • Jiantao Wang, Goldman Sachs
  • Chenye Wu (visiting), Tsinghua University
  • Zichao Yang (visiting), City University of Hong Kong
  • David Young, Electric Power Research Institute
  • Changhong Zhao, NREL

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SISL group members' contact information can be found by clicking on their name on the applicable directory page:

For general inquiries about SISL, please contact Sheryl Cobb.


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