POPNET is a novel digital infrastructure and research community with the aim of unlocking longitudinal social network data on the entire population of the Netherlands for academic research purposes. In doing so it enables new exciting research in an anonymized as well as ethically and legally responsible manner. This research may lead to actionable insights into key issues including segregation, substantive social change, and UN sustainable development goals such as reducing inequality.

POPNET is a collaboration of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Leiden University (UL) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS).
The platform, funded for 5 years (2020-2025) centers around a) research infrastructure b) social network analysis research and c) community building.

Research infrastructure. A first-of-a-kind research infrastructure tailored in terms of hard- and software specifically for large-scale social network analysis will be developed. Rich methods from social network analysis and network science will be implemented to unveil new and previously unknown knowledge about the complexity of the Dutch population. This requires the development of an infrastructure that that facilitates this kind of research in terms of computation power, memory and data management. A data engineer will be hired early 2021 to work on this infrastructure.

Social network analysis research. One 4-year PhD candiate and one 2-year postdoc will be hired to perform pilot social network analysis studies on the (anonymized) population-scale social network of the Netherlands, consisting of 17 million nodes (people) and their hundreds of millions of family, work, school and neighborhood links as well as demographic attributes. The research, which has a strong computational social science character, will be done in parallel with the building of the research infrastructure to ensure alignment of the developed platform and researcher needs.

Community building. Network analysis research has gained popularity in a variety of fields other than social sciences and humanities, including mathematics, computer science, physics, biology. Under the terms network science and complex networks, a plethora of techniques for assessing social complexity have been developed. In addition, a rich set of social network analysis approaches has been developed in the social sciences. Within POPNET, we aim to bring together each of these disciplines in an attempt to, in a multidisciplinary setting, characterize and understand the social complexity and resilience of the Dutch population. Building and maintaining the community around POPNET will be done by a community manager, to be hired early 2021.