SILS alumnus, Chirag Shah, receives surprise award

September 25, 2010

The American Political Science Association has awarded its "Best Political Science Software Award" to SILS alumnus, Dr. Chirag Shah, for ContextMiner, a software program he created while a doctoral student at SILS. The program was developed as part of the VidArch Project  at SILS, a project funded by the Library of Congress and the National Science Foundation under the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP). 

"ContextMiner is a framework developed to collect, analyze, and present contextual information along with the data from a variety of social media sources." It is a free service that allows people the ability to import social software such as Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, blog information and Web data and tracks the trends over periods of time. For more about ContextMiner, see:

“I was surprised to learn about this award since I didn't even know that ContextMiner was being considered for this award,” said Shah. “I'm not even a member of The American Political Science Association (APSA), and political science is not my field. Yet, something that was done in LIS, and intended to be used by information and library scientists and professionals has been recognized as equally valuable in an outside field,” he added. “This shows how what we do and teach in LIS can have a larger impact than libraries and information systems. The use and adoption of ContextMiner by dozens of organizations around the world in various fields is a clear indication of this phenomenon, and I'm extremely happy about it. I'm grateful to the VidArch team at UNC for their encouragement and support throughout the life of ContextMiner.”

Gary Marchionini, SILS dean and the principal investigator on the VIDARCH Project noted, “ContexMiner was developed to harvest YouTube videos on specific topics such as the 2008 Presidential election campaign. We quickly recognized its utility for harvesting blogs and other kinds of Web content and others took advantage of its ease of use and free availability to use it for their own harvesting projects.”

The ContextMiner site has served researchers at universities across the United States and internationally; organizations such as the U.S. Navy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Google and the FBI have used ContextMiner.

Since graduating with his Ph.D. last spring, Dr. Shah now serves as assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information.

For more information about ContextMiner, visit the Web site: 


Photo courtesy of Chirag Shah.