The McCourt School convened a committee of Georgetown and Sciences Po faculty to select inaugural grantees, furthering scholarship from Georgetown experts on digital governance and developing technology for the common good.
In partnership with the McCourt Institute, an independent organization, Georgetown awarded the first round of grants, supporting the work of faculty across the University with deep expertise in law, public policy, computer science and ethics. A steering committee representing Georgetown faculty, the McCourt Institute and academic partner, Sciences Po, selected nine grantees for their focus on studying the impact of technology on individuals and society, and exploring new governance models, regulatory frameworks and technologies to mitigate harm and advance the common good.
Over the next 10 years, the annual grant competition, housed within the McCourt School of Public Policy and seeded by a $25M gift from the McCourt Institute, will fund additional impact-driven research committed to reimagining ethics, policy and governance for the digital age.
Alongside the McCourt Institute and Sciences Po, which announced its own Tech for the Common Good research program, the University hopes to build upon the robust work begun by the Georgetown Initiative on Tech & Society, and further cultivate a vibrant interdisciplinary community of legal scholars, computer scientists, social scientists and ethicists. This growing network will regularly come together to exchange ideas, discuss research obstacles and seed joint projects to tackle the challenges and opportunities of our ever-evolving digital society.
At the McCourt Institute’s inaugural event on March 10, McCourt School Dean Maria Cancian and Professor and Massive Data Institute Director Michael Bailey will join Sciences Po in a discussion on the future of tech governance and how the comprehensive and collaborative research from grantees can help solve tech issues at a global scale. The full list of grantees is available on the McCourt Institute’s website.
The inaugural research grantees
1. 360 Tech & Social Media; Innovation, Security and Governance
Georgetown’s Center on Law and National Security will assemble a high-level task force of experts from diverse sectors to tackle the misuse of social media by foreign nationals and governments, as well as the challenges to trade posed by the myriad and often conflicting regulatory approaches different countries are taking.
This project will be led by Laura Donohue, professor at Georgetown Law and director of Georgetown’s Center on Law and National Security, and Anna Cave, executive director of Georgetown Law’s Center on National Security.
2. Censorship Resistance as a Side Effect
Micah Sherr, Callahan Family Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown, will conduct research to better understand how technology is being (mis)used to prevent global citizens from freely accessing and contributing information online, and to develop new technologies for countering Internet censorship.
3. Digital Data Institutes Cross-University Partnership
The Médialab at Sciences Po and the Massive Data Institute at Georgetown’s McCourt School will collaboratively develop a shared research agenda to analyze the ways in which social media both reflects and influences modern social and political life. The institutions will also explore potential joint research opportunities on the influence of digital technologies on society.
This project will be led by Michael Bailey, Colonel William J. Walsh Professor of American Government in Georgetown’s Department of Government and the McCourt School.
4. The Data Co-ops Project
An interdisciplinary team of lawyers, ethicists and computer scientists will research how digital platforms use information from millions of users to manipulate their behavior and access to information. The team seeks to develop a blueprint for cutting-edge technology that will enable transparency and regulation, without compromising privacy.
This project will be led by Kobbi Nissim, professor and the Robert L. McDevitt, K.S.G., K.C.H.S. and Catherine H. McDevitt L.C.H.S. Term Chair in Computer Science at Georgetown.
5. Motivating Correction
Building on previous research on exposure to misinformation, Georgetown Associate Professor Leticia Bode will study which users engage in public correction of others on social media, why most users do not currently correct others and how to motivate more people to provide accurate and effective corrections when confronted by misleading posts.
6. Redesigning the Governance Stack: New Institutional Approaches to Information Economy Harms
Georgetown Law Professor Paul Ohm, Julie Cohen, Mark Claster Mamolen Professor of Law & Technology and co-director of the Institute for Technology Law and Policy, and Associate Professor Meg Leta Jones will lay the groundwork for a complete rethinking of the institutions and legal tools used to govern technology and technology companies. Their research will focus on the uses and misuses of technology, its effects on individuals and society, and how new technologies born in the information age have outstripped existing regulatory frameworks.
7. Scaling Secure Multiparty Computation for Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning
Associate Professor Muthuramakrishnan Venkitasubramaniam will endeavor to design a public, open-source cryptographic tool that a variety of researchers — from medicine to the social sciences — can use to analyze data containing personally identifiable information without risk of compromising individual identity.
8. Tech Foundations for Policymakers
The Tech Foundations for Policymakers team, led by April Falcon Doss, executive director of Georgetown’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy, will continue to expand its efforts to bring research evidence, interdisciplinary perspectives and new thinking to the elected and appointed officials responsible for writing laws, regulations and policies to govern every-day technology.
9. Using Big Data to Predict Migration in the Era of Misinformation
Lisa Singh, professor of computer science and research professor in the Massive Data Institute at Georgetown’s McCourt School, will lead a collaborative study between social scientists and computer scientists to pioneer new uses of public, open-source data collected from social media and local news to predict likely migrant flows to specific countries with sufficient warning for humanitarian agencies to act. This team will also be studying how misinformation travels and why it has more influence in some locations than in others.