Public Interest Technology Institute

A 2-week virtual conference for early and mid-career faculty who seek to accelerate their work in public interest technology

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The NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology proposes to create and deliver the Public Interest Technology Institute, a 2-week boot camp for early and mid-career faculty who seek to accelerate their work in public interest technology. Participants will be primarily members of groups historically underrepresented in technology work. The results of the training, including lessons learned, will be compiled into a whitepaper that will be shared in the PIT-UN community and on the NYU Alliance website.

We intend to support 15 scholars through technology training sessions and writing collaboratives to share, support, and help each other plan and execute new work. The Institute will be a 2 week intensive in-person workshop and 1 year of ongoing mentorship. Our primary collaborator will be the Center for Critical Race & Digital Studies, a connecting point for a worldwide community of interdisciplinary researchers concerned with technology and inequality specifically through the lens of race. We will identify and recruit scholars through our CRDS networks, through NYU, and through the PIT-UN network. We will bring participants to NYC (or to a virtual space depending on COVID-19) for networking and training. The first week of the program will focus on technology training that will allow scholars to enhance their digital methods skills and empower them around technology. The second week of the session will be focused on refining the scholars’ own work, creating project plans, forging research collaborations, and meeting with senior scholars for mentorship. Our intention is to give scholars skills and networks to help build and develop new research collaborations in public interest technology.

We are motivated to build bridges between critical scholars and those trained in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The project will have three annual virtual check-ins to maintain and establish connections after the summer intensives. Critical technology scholars and CRDS members have already committed to participate, per the letters of support. A newsletter will support efforts and will amplify the work of the junior and senior scholars involved in the project. Participants will be primarily from the social sciences and humanities. Our partnership with CRDS will ensure that we reach and enroll a diverse group of scholars. As outlined elsewhere in the application, we will use a community-driven approach to devise the curriculum in order to maximize the impact for the scholars’ careers.

Our project is a pilot for a public-interest technology research network training institute that focuses on the professionalization needs of early career scholars publishing interdisciplinary material. The institute will increase the available research at the intersection of race and public interest technology while also supporting a career pipeline. This project will both establish professional networks while also building better research for this cutting edge area. A whitepaper about what we learned will be circulated in the PIT-UN community and on the Alliance website. The training will be a pilot that can be replicated at NYU in future years and across the PIT University Network, constituting a shared resource. We anticipate that as new members of the PIT-UN community, this pilot will allow us to create relationships throughout the network. Digital studies scholars need additional support to navigate traditional academic boundaries while forging this emerging field of study. Scholars whose interests intersect with race and inequality have additional hurdles. This effort will support this uniquely vulnerable group of academics at a time where public interest technology needs to expand access to new voices.

Principal Investigators

Meredith Broussard is an associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University and the author of the award-winning book Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World. Her research focuses on artificial intelligence in investigative reporting, with a particular interest in using data analysis for social good. She is an affiliate faculty member at the Moore Sloan Data Science Environment at the NYU Center for Data Science and her work has been supported by the Institute of Museum & Library Services; the Reynolds Journalism Institute; and the Tow Center at Columbia Journalism School.

Dr. Anne L. Washington, Assistant Professor of Data Policy at NYU, is a scholar of public-interest technology with an expertise in government data. Data policy has roots in management information systems, law, and informatics. At the broadest level, her research considers the ethical impact of technology on society through the lens of digital record keeping. As a computer scientist trained in organizational ethnography, she unites inductive qualitative research methods with technology tools. The National Science Foundation has recognized her work on digital government in multiple grants and she is the recipient of the prestigious five-year NSF CAREER award for research on open data. Before completing her doctorate, she worked at Barclays Global Investors, the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, and Apple Computers. Her academic contributions build on these accomplishments connecting methodology and data management to matters in the public interest.