Facebook partners with the University on research


Jacob Singleton

By Sam Schrage, Staff writer

Facebook has become the most popular social media site in the world, with 1.79 billion monthly active users in 2016. Facebook’s high demand has led members of the Facebook team to invest in ways to find new revenue streams in virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Building 8 is where hardware and software products are built and tested. To help fulfill Building 8’s goals, Facebook announced a partnership with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and 16 other outstanding universities across the U.S.

The partnership is officially titled the Sponsored Academic Research Agreement or SARA. It is overseen by Regina Dugan, Head of Building 8.

SARA will be beneficial not only to Facebook, but also to researchers at the University who have the opportunity to gather research and develop technology that effects the future of Facebook and the social media industry.

“The Sponsored Academic Research Agreement with Facebook is exciting because it makes it easier and quicker for researchers on our campus to do projects with Facebook. They will not have to renegotiate an agreement every time a new opportunity comes up, meaning that researchers can get to work quickly,” wrote Katheryne Rehberg, associate director at the Office of Corporate Relations, in an email.

Not only will research at the University be launched soon, but collaboration between all 17 Universities and Facebook will happen within a few weeks, said Dugan. This collaboration is sure to bring about advancements that not only improve Facebook’s site, but also other businesses and companies hoping to achieve the same goals as Facebook.

“I feel that there will be a lot of advancements that businesses will be able to use to help improve themselves. I also think that Facebook will be able to use these advancements to create products that consumers want and to help make sure these products succeed,” wrote Matthew Tyiran, sophomore in Engineering, in an email.

Facebook’s decision to include the University in its partnership comes as no surprise, with the University being ranked the 11th best Public College and the 35th best research university, according to Forbes Magazine.

The research the University will be doing for this project is very similar to the type of research the University is renowned for.

“The University of Illinois is noted for collaborative, interdisciplinary research that addresses challenging scientific and technical questions, from all corners of campus,” Rehberg said.

The University continues find ways for its students to be academically involved on campus and apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life research projects.

“UIUC is already known as a research institution, but this shows how UIUC is coming up with more opportunities for its students to do research. UIUC is now showing that it has the skills and resources to succeed. This research will allow technology to constantly improve more and more quickly,” Tyiran wrote.

The research will also cover a large scope of disciplines across campus, allowing a wide range and number of investigators and even students to be involved.

“SARA covers the entire campus, so an investigator from any discipline – from Engineering to Business, from LAS to FAA, and everywhere in between – could be involved, depending on Facebook’s needs,” Rehberg wrote.

While the research will cover a plethora of areas of study, it will depend on the requirements of the individual project to determine if students can be involved.

Rehberg encouraged students to contact the Undergraduate Research Office to stay updated and to learn about available research opportunities.

Facebook’s decision to partner with 17 Universities may be more of a strategic move than purely an innovative one. With the rise of other social media outlets such as Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook’s new streamline innovation will make the site more accessible and bring attention to its efforts.

“I feel like this is going to help keep Facebook, as a social media, alive. This is going to help Facebook improve as a company and to help keep the company relevant and desired,” Tyiran said.

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