Data & Society Research Institute

Fellows Program

Data & Society has concluded its Call for Fellows for 2014-15.
Meet our inaugural class here.
Please subscribe to our mailing list or come back in the fall for the next call.

Call for Fellows

The Data & Society Research Institute is a new think/do tank in New York City dedicated to addressing social, technical, ethical, legal, and policy issues that are emerging because of data-centric technological development.

Data & Society is currently looking to assemble its inaugural class of fellows. The fellowship program is intended to bring together an eclectic network of researchers, entrepreneurs, activists, policy creators, journalists, geeks, and public intellectuals who are interested in engaging one another on the key issues introduced by the increasing availability of data in society. We are looking for a diverse group of people who can see both the opportunities and challenges presented by access to data and who have a vision for a project that can inform the public or shape the future of society.

Fellows will be the heart and soul of this new Institute and will be expected to develop innovative initiatives, interact with people who hold diverse perspectives, and participate in the creation of a new community. Data & Society is brand new and while many aspects of this program have not been hammered out, the first class of fellows will play a significant role in shaping the Institute’s formation.

Potential fellows are invited to imagine a specific project that they would execute to help society’s understanding of and ability to adapt to a data-soaked world. A successful fellowship project will be a high-impact initiative that engages a broad audience to inform, convene, intervene, or provoke. We are open to a wide range of potential outputs, from white papers to op-eds, multi-stakeholder events to technological artifacts. We are especially interested in interdisciplinary, cross-sector ideas oriented towards challenges facing society that don’t easily fit into a box.

To offer a sense of the kinds of projects that may be appropriate, consider what would be needed to help address the following questions:

  • How can we increase public access to data while minimizing potential abuses?
  • What kinds of policy advice would help designers, entrepreneurs, and startups navigate the social, legal, and ethical dynamics of working with data? How can we build a structure to support these constituents?
  • How would we architect a “data philanthropy” mechanism to enable individuals to contribute their data to research? What would be involved in building a data-as-public-good ecosystem?
  • What are the challenges, opportunities, and complications presented by regulating algorithms and data usage? What kinds of oversight would help? How should existing regulations be reconsidered in light of new models?
  • How are the fields of law, health, education, journalism, human rights, etc. changed by data? What frameworks would help ground those fields?
  • What kinds of technical/social/legal/economic interventions can help address new inequalities that emerge because of predictive analytics?
  • How do we measure the chilling effects of data collection and use?

We are seeking approximately 8-12 fellows with different types of expertise and knowledge. Some might be academics doing postdoctoral research or on leave from their home institutions. Others might be practitioners interested in exploring a new path. Journalists, scholars, public intellectuals, entrepreneurs, advocates, and makers are all encouraged to apply.

Fellows will be expected to be in residence at the Institute’s home in Manhattan and participate in weekly activities. Fellows will be encouraged to work on their own projects, host events, and collaborate with others. One goal of Data & Society is to support the development of a vibrant interdisciplinary mix so we are especially interested in fellows who are excited by community building.

Fellowships will be individually crafted to suit the needs of the fellow and the project. The typical fellowship will be full time for one year (with the possibility of renewal), but we are open to other proposals. We would like this inaugural round of fellows to be in place and active at the Institute by July 2014, but we are open to fellows starting sooner. Office space will be provided to fellows by June.

Stipends, benefits, and project funding will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis and will depend on our ability to raise money to support a specific project or fellow. Our goal is to provide fellows with the resources and structure needed to support their proposed projects. For this reason, we encourage applicants to be upfront about what they’ll need to be successful. Fellows are also encouraged to bring their own funding to the Institute. We will also work with fellows to support their fundraising efforts.


If you are interested in applying to be a Data & Society fellow, please send the following to by January 24, 2014:
  • Cover letter, including background on you, the names/emails of three references, and a description of what you want to get out of a fellowship.
  • CV/resume and a sample output (e.g., paper, website, video) that showcases your work.
  • Two-to-four page project overview. Include a description of the project itself as well as a discussion of the potential impact and target audience. Explain why you think it’d be valuable to do the project at Data & Society.
  • One page resource discussion. Include a description of the resources you have available to you as well as those that you need to succeed. This includes financial considerations (e.g., stipend, benefits, project funding, travel support, etc.) as well as other types of support (e.g., project space, access to specific people, research help, library access, skills training, technical resources, etc.).

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Can I apply from outside the United States?

Currently, we do not have formal infrastructure or processes in place to help with visas and the like. We do hope to get there, but we cannot promise that we will be able to do so in time for the inaugural class of fellows.

Should you want to apply in the hopes that we can figure it out this year, support and assistance with a visa or related hurdle is something you should list as part of your stated resource needs. Your application’s one-page resource discussion allows you to specify everything you would need to be successful with your proposed project. We intend to be holistic in our consideration of resources and to do our best.

Can I be a part-time fellow?

While the typical fellowship will be full time for one year, we are open to other proposals (including but not limited to time splitting between the fellowship and a job in a related field). In the resource discussion, explain the specific arrangement that would work for you and your proposed project and how that arrangement would affect your resource needs.

Do I have to live in New York City?

Because we are a new organization seeking to create a community, we are looking for fellows who will primarily be based in NYC. Fellows will be expected to spend time physically at the Institute in Manhattan — working, attending events, informal gatherings, hanging out. We expect that fellows will travel to conferences as a part of their professional lives, but being primarily in NYC is an absolute must; building a community means that, at least for the first year or three of the program, people share bread together on a regular basis.

What is the stipend?

We have some funding to support fellows but do not plan on having a standard stipend. We’re trying to think holistically about compensation as a part of larger packages of resources — everything from a stipend to, say, special computing support, research assistant needs, travel expenses, event space, etc. We are also hoping to spread the limited money as widely as possible so we expect that some people will be unfunded fellows whom we support in other ways. Additionally, we are looking to get additional support to fund specific projects; stipends for these will depend on the funders.

The application calls for a one-page resource discussion precisely because we want applicants to articulate what resources need to be successful including stipend, project support, computing, space, connections, etc. We are not trying to be difficult, but we do see this as a large resource jigsaw puzzle and want applicants’ help in articulating what resources they need.

To help you think through your proposal, full-time paid fellowships in comparable institutions tend to offer between $30,000-$60,000 of stipend per year; a few offer more, many offer nothing. We imagine that most of the proposals that we’ll fund will cost the Institute somewhere between $20,000-$90,000, but some may require less/more. We intend to show some proposals to other collaborators and funders who may be able to support more complex projects or projects that need greater resources. That said, we are not a grant-giving organization nor can we guarantee to get external support for your project; we are simply looking to match interesting projects to available resources in order to maximize the potential of the Institute. We can also help you apply for – and can help you manage – government or foundation grants to get additional support for your project.

Our goal is really to figure out how to make as much interesting work happen and have as great of an impact as possible. This is not a fellowship for those who are simply looking to draw a stipend for the year. It’s a place to help support projects that wouldn’t otherwise happen and build connections that will enhance everyone’s work. As you think about your resource needs, think about what it would take for you to make a difference and do work that changes the world.

Can I work on my thesis/dissertation/book?

The goal of the fellowship program is to support research that is public-facing and focused on making an impact in a broad sense. We are not looking to support academics whose projects are intended solely to speak to academic audiences. Should your thesis/dissertation/book project lend itself to spending a year collaborating with others and working on public-facing outputs, embrace the synergies! But if you’re looking to hunker down and work in isolation to produce academic content, this is probably not the fellowship for you.

I am a _______. Can I apply?

We’re definitely looking for a mix of people, backgrounds, methodologies, fields, professions, etc. for our first gaggle of fellows — not only writers but also folks who make stuff and do things. The program is intended to build community, inspire the creation of high-impact projects, and produce outcomes that shape how people think about and engage with data in a networked society. We love the idea of engineers working alongside philosophers, journalists debating with lawyers, government professionals on break to find common ground with DIY makers.


Inquiries about the fellowship should be directed to Questions about the opportunity or process will not reflect negatively on an application.

Other Opportunities

In addition to the fellows program, we will also be supporting additional funded research projects and looking for researchers to work on those projects. If you are interested in being kept abreast of those opportunities, please make sure to join our mailing list:

Commitment to Diversity

The work and well being of the Data & Society Research Institute is strengthened by the diversity of our network and our differences in background, culture, experience, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and much more. We welcome applications from people of color, women, the LGBTQIA community, and persons with disabilities.