Data & Society Research Institute

Fellows Program

Call for Fellows

Data & Society is an NYC-based research institute focused on social, cultural, and ethical issues arising from data-centric technological development.

Program

Data & Society is currently looking to assemble its 2015 class of fellows. The fellowship program brings 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 are the heart and soul of Data & Society and are expected to develop innovative initiatives, interact with people who hold diverse perspectives, and participate in the creation of a growing community. Data & Society is a new organization and many aspects of this program are continuing to evolve. Fellows play a pivotal role in shaping the Institute’s character and formation.

Projects

Potential fellows are invited to imagine a specific project or activity that they will execute to help society’s understanding of and ability to adapt to a world permeated by data. Successful fellowship projects are high-impact initiatives that engage broad audiences to inform, convene, intervene, or provoke. We are open to a wide range of potential outputs, from white papers and op-eds to multi-stakeholder events to technological artifacts. We are especially interested in interdisciplinary, cross-sector, or crazy ideas that tackle challenges facing society that don’t easily fit into a predefined category or 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. Please note that this is just a list to help imagine projects, not a prescriptive list of what we are looking for.

  • How can we increase public access to data while minimizing potential abuses? How do these dynamics shift if we’re talking about urban data, health data, or behavioral data?
  • What kinds of 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 actors?
  • How can we increase the public’s understanding of data and algorithms? What does it mean to increase data literacy? How do we empower educators, librarians, and cultural institutions to inform the public?
  • How might we leverage different metaphors to help interrogate what’s unfolding? Data philanthropy? Data supply chains? Data fracking?
  • How are the fields of civil rights, criminal justice, education, government, health, journalism, law, etc. changed by data? What frameworks would help ground those fields?
  • What kinds of technical/social/legal/economic interventions can help address new inequities that emerge because of predictive analytics?
  • How do we measure the impact of data collection and use? How do we measure the impact of regulations intended to protect or empower people?

Mix

We are seeking a small group of (approximately 4-8) new fellows with different types of expertise and knowledge. We are purposefully looking for a diverse mix of researchers and practitioners. Researchers may be postdocs, faculty on leave, or independent scholars. We are disciplinarily agnostic and welcome people from critical, empirical, technical, and humanistic fields. Practitioners may include activists, educators, entrepreneurs, journalists, makers, policy analysts, or public intellectuals.

Participation

Fellows will be expected to be in partial residence at Data & Society’s Flatiron District home in Manhattan and to participate in weekly activities. Fellows will be encouraged to work on their own projects, host events, and collaborate with others. Data & Society supports a vibrant mix of thinkers and doers so we are especially interested in fellows who are excited by community building. Fellows may be part time, provided that they can dedicate at least Thursdays to being fully focused on Data & Society efforts.

Term

Fellowships are individually crafted to suit the needs of the fellow and the project. The typical fellowship is full time for one year (with the possibility of renewal). We expect the 2015 fellows to be in place and active at Data & Society by September 2015, but we are open to fellows starting earlier.

Funding

Stipends, benefits, and project funding are negotiated on a case-by-case basis and depend on our ability to fundraise for the fellows program. Our goal is to work with fellows to identify and provide 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. The typical fellowship includes approximately $30,000 in Data & Society support; some fellows ask for stipends while others ask for resources to support their projects (e.g., RA time, event costs, etc.). All fellows will have access to desks/workspaces, email address, and organizational support.

As a 501(c)(3), we are able to support fellows in applying for both federal and philanthropic grants. We provide fellows with support in applying for grants, and we work with fellows who are holding their own grants to craft an appropriate fellowship that allows fellows to commit to their grantors.

Application

If you are interested in applying to be a Data & Society fellow, please complete the application form at
http://www.datasociety.net/initiatives/fellows-program/2015-application
by December 13, 2014.

Please review the application form carefully before submitting.

In addition to a variety of basic information about you and your work, the materials you will need to prepare include:

  • short cover letter;
  • resume or CV;
  • work sample;
  • project summary and full proposal;
  • discussion of required resources; and
  • names and email addresses of three references.

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. If you would like to apply and are accepted, we can write you a letter saying that you are offered a fellowship, but you will need to secure your own visa and, if seeking funding, work permit.

Can I be a part-time fellow?

Yes. Some of our current fellows are running businesses, writing professionally, teaching, or holding two appointments. Fellows need to be able to commit to being fully present on Thursdays (the occasional exception is acceptable) and able to attend larger events, but part-time commitments are fine. The specific arrangement that would work should be documented in the resource section.

Do I have to live in New York City?

Because we are a young organization working to create a community, we are looking for fellows who will be based primarily in NYC. Fellows will be expected to spend time physically at D&S — working, attending events, informal gatherings, hanging out. We expect that fellows will travel as a part of their professional lives, but being primarily in NYC is an absolute must; building a community means that people share bread together on a regular basis.

What is the stipend?

There is no standard stipend. This is intentional, even if a bit confusing. Work with us.
We offer a range of packages depending on the fellowship. We think holistically about compensation as a part of larger packages of resources — everything from stipends to special computing support, research assistant help, travel expenses, event support, etc. The typical fellow has a package worth roughly $30,000, but we have part-time fellows who are unfunded (or funded by outside sources) and full-time fellows who are offered more and commit to deeper engagement. We also have fellows who have raised their own money and set their own salary.

We are looking for fellowship applicants to think creatively about how to balance time and resources, outside support, and Data & Society engagement. We are happy to work with potential fellows to acquire additional support to fund specific projects. That said, we are not a grant maker.

The application calls for a resource discussion precisely because we want applicants to articulate what resources they need to be successful. We see this as a large resource jigsaw puzzle and want applicants’ help in articulating what resources they need and helping us imagine how we can work with fellows to put all of the pieces together.

Our goal is to figure out how to make as much interesting work happen and have as great of an impact as possible. Please note that this is not a fellowship for those who are simply looking to draw a stipend for the year and not engage with others. 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.

What kinds of interactions or collaborations can I expect?

You will be sharing our awesome space in Flatiron where you will bump into a range of amazing and thoughtful folks on a regular basis. More formally we host weekly lunches called Databites, regular fellows convenings, and a bunch of other cool events and discussions. The inaugural class of fellows has already developed new collaborations that have resulted in the development of grants, written artifacts, and grant applications. Informal cross-pollination and fellow-initiated activities are encouraged.

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.

Can I work on my company/startup/product idea?

It depends. If you’re building a company or product and want to spend part of your time thinking more holistically about the issues at hand and collaborating with people who aren’t interested in your business, by all means. That said, we are not an incubator. We are unable to house or support big teams, and this fellowship is not conducive for someone whose energy is fully focused on the development of their product, which is typically the case for most startups. Don’t forget that the fellowship is about new collaborations and public-facing output.

I am a _______. Can I apply?

We are definitely looking for a mix of people, backgrounds, methodologies, fields, professions for each class of fellows — not only writers but also folks who make stuff and do things. The program exists 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 entrepreneurs working alongside librarians, journalists debating with lawyers, government professionals on break to find common ground with DIY makers.

I applied last year. May I apply again?

Yes. But please do not submit the same project proposal without meaningful rethinking and revision.

When do I hear from you? What is the timeframe for decisions?

The deadline to apply is December 13. We will begin looking at applications in early December. We will begin setting up interviews with strong candidates in January, and most fellowship decisions will be made by the end of February.

More questions?

Inquiries about the fellowship should be directed to fellowsapp@datasociety.net. 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.