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Data & Society is assembling its fourth class of fellows to join us from September 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. (Please meet our current class here, and our first two classes here and here.) This program is core to Data & Society’s dual mission of producing rigorous research that can have impact, and supporting and connecting the young but growing field of actors working on the social, cultural, and political effects of data.
Data & Society fellows have pursued academic research, written code, created art, brought together communities of activists and communities of practice, run workshops, worked closely with Data & Society’s in-house research team and with each other to produce joint publications, and much more. Fellows – current and past – are academics, coders, artists, journalists, activists, lawyers, tech industry actors, and community organizers united by both excitement and concern over the implications of data’s increasingly central role in reconfiguring society. We are engaged, individually and together, in building pathways to interrogating and articulating those implications and developing frames that can help society address emergent tensions.
The Data & Society fellowship is intended to produce public-facing outputs, to support fellows in engaging external actors – be they communities of practice, professional communities, a particular academic discipline, or the general public – and to foster collaborative activities within the D&S cohort and beyond that strengthen the fields in which we are working.
As we build a cohort for 2017-18, we’ll be prioritizing applicants who are excited about connecting with and contributing to these growing communities concerned with the effects of data on society. Put differently, this is not a fellowship program for those who want to spend a year in focused, independent research; rather, this is a program for people who can see the value of their work on a bigger stage and are looking for ways to create impact outside their own field.
Participation & Cohort
Fellows at Data & Society commit to being in residence at the D&S loft in New York City for either one or two days each week (the stipend is adjusted depending on days in residence). Each fellow, over the course of their fellowship, will pursue a project of their own design.
Fellows are also asked to engage with D&S – both at the organizational level and with the broader community. This engagement can take a number of different forms, from attending our lecture series, Databites, to organizing small group sessions with visitors, to developing workshops, to working on in-house publications, and more. We ask that all fellows either participate in or lead a monthly reading group and attend our weekly networking hour; beyond that, the choice of where and how to participate is part of the fellowship design process between D&S staff and the fellow.
Together with our in-house research team and postdocs, fellows form the annual Data & Society cohort – a (growing) group of approximately 35 colleagues who come together as the core of Data & Society’s field-building efforts.
Beyond the in-house cohort, Data & Society fellows are also connected to past fellows, our affiliates, and a broad field of actors both in New York City and beyond that regularly pass through D&S for workshops, seminars, social gatherings, and talks.
Projects & Themes
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 events, code, and art installations. We are interested in interdisciplinary, cross-sector, and/or crazy ideas that tackle challenges facing society and don’t easily fit into a predefined category. We are also interested in creating connections and building synergies between our in-house researchers and fellows’ projects. We love it when our fellows experiment with new ideas or expand our network in unexpected directions. Our expectation is that the themes that run through our 2017-18 class will be a combination of the familiar and the unexpected.
To offer a sense of the kinds of projects that may be appropriate, consider some of the questions the 2016-17 class of fellows are tackling:
- How can the tech industry navigate the social, legal, and ethical dynamics of working with data? How can we build a structure to support managers, developers, data scientists, and designers?
- How can society regulate privacy in a networked environment?
- How can we increase the public’s understanding of the trade-offs inherent to decision-making using data and algorithms? What does it mean to increase data literacy? How do we empower educators, librarians, and cultural institutions to inform the public?
- What are the implications for society when DNA becomes writable code?
- How does (and can) art tell the intertwined stories of data, power and identity?
- Should we understand criminal defense differently when data analytics are a factor in constructing a case?
- How do lawyers, doctors, journalists, and municipal, state, and federal employees understand the changes that data at scale is bringing to their professions? How might they prepare themselves for future possibilities?
- How do we teach data ethics, when underlying assumptions are not shared? What other fields and frames – moral philosophy, medical ethics, government accountability – should we be building from?
- 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?
Some of Data & Society’s ongoing, in-house research topics include: criminal justice; precision medicine; personalized learning; algorithms and media creation; labor and technology; and the privacy and surveillance experiences of vulnerable populations.
Again, we welcome applications that pose entirely new questions and topics and push D&S in new directions, as well as applications that complement and expand our current research focus.
We are seeking 8 to 12 fellows for the 2017-18 class. We are purposefully looking for a diverse mix of researchers and practitioners.
Researchers may be faculty, including those on sabbatical, or independent scholars. [Postdocs should explore our ongoing call for Postdoctoral Scholars. This is a different category at D&S that sits within our research team rather than our fellows class, and we’d love for you to apply here]. We are disciplinarily agnostic and welcome people from critical, empirical, technical, legal, and humanistic fields. That said, we strongly encourage applications from data scientists, statisticians, and mathematicians who are seeking to apply their scientific and technical skills to social problems, and who are looking to engage with social scientists.
Practitioners may include advocates and activists, educators, entrepreneurs, journalists, technology industry actors, those coming out of a government office or position, policy analysts, public intellectuals, and those whose practice doesn’t fit squarely into conventional categories.
Residency typically runs from September 1 through June 30 of the following year. If you would like to apply for a fellowship but cannot commit to a full term, please flag that in your application, as we may be able to accommodate some variations.
Fellows committing to two days a week in residence for the full term are offered a stipend of $25,000, with up to $5000 in project costs available to them. Fellows who make a one-day-a-week commitment receive a stipend of $12,500, also with up to $5000 in project costs available to them. If the fellowship period is shorter than ten months, the stipend will be pro-rated on a monthly basis.
All fellows will have access to desks/workspaces, meeting rooms, email addresses, etc., and programmatic and organizational support to advance their project.
As a 501(c)(3) organization, we support fellows in applying for both federal and philanthropic grants, and we work with fellows currently holding grants to craft an appropriate fellowship that allows them to honor commitments to grantors.
While we welcome applications from outside the United States, we are currently unable to support the acquisition of visas. If you are applying from outside the United States and are accepted, you will need to secure your own visa and, depending on your situation, work permit.
To apply for a Data & Society fellowship, we’ll ask you to complete an application at Submittable. You’ll be submitting information about yourself and your work to date, including:
- cover letter;
- resume or CV;
- work samples;
- project summary and brief (1000 word) proposal;
- names and email addresses of three references.
Note that references will automatically receive an email from Submittable, the application platform, prompting them to submit a letter of reference to Data & Society. Please make sure your references whitelist submittable.com.
First-round applications are due December 19, 2016. Second-round applicants will be contacted in mid-January for an interview with D&S staff, fellows, and/or advisors, and may be asked for additional information such as project budgets or letters of reference as they move through the review process.
Successful applicants will be alerted in March 2017, with a public announcement to follow.
please complete the application form at
by December 19, 2016.
The work and well-being of Data & Society 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.
Can I apply from outside the United States?
Currently, we do not have formal infrastructure or processes in place to support visas. 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, all of our fellows are part-time, committing either one or two days a week for 10 months to the fellowship. Some of our current fellows are running businesses, writing professionally, teaching, or holding two appointments.
Do I have to live in New York City?
This is an active fellowship that requires time spent in person with the Data & Society cohort. While you don’t need to live in New York City, you will need to live within reasonable travel distance to New York. Fellows are asked, as a condition of the fellowship, to be physically present in the D&S loft in lower Manhattan either one or two days a week, depending on your time commitment to the fellowship. And we encourage fellows to engage more broadly in Data & Society’s programming and events, which span the week. What we’ve found is that living further away tends to preclude many of the interactions that are key to taking full advantage of the fellowship.
What is the stipend?
Assuming a 10-month commitment, the stipend is either $25,000 (for those who commit to two days a week at Data & Society) or $12,500 (for those who commit to one day a week.) For both categories, Data & Society supplies up to $5000 in project costs, and provides organizational support around logistics, communications, and other areas.
What kinds of interactions or collaborations can I expect?
The Data & Society annual cohort (fellows and D&S researchers) is a rich and diverse group. You will be asked to participate or lead regular programming that brings the cohort together along different thematic and topical lines, facilitating both meaningful discussion and project collaborations. Beyond the cohort, you will be a part of Data & Society’s wider community of affiliates, friends, collaborators, and supporters. While D&S programming is set up to put you in contact with many different people from many different disciplines and professional backgrounds, it will be up to you to turn those interactions in to meaningful collaborations. Over the course of our past three fellowship years, we’ve seen this happen more and more, and are happy to support those collaborations as much as we can from an organizational perspective.
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?
While Data & Society is not an incubator, if what you want to do is dig into the complications and ethical issues related to a company or product you want to launch, there could be a match there. Keep in mind that the fellowship is meant to focus on collaboration and public-facing output, so we’d want to understand what the public interest element of your project would be.
I am a _______. Can I apply?
Probably! We are looking for an interdisciplinary group that brings a mix of backgrounds, methodologies, fields, and professions — not only academics and researchers but also those focused on building code, making policy, and applying practice within a community, among other things.
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 19, 2016. We will begin looking at applications in early December. We will begin setting up interviews with second-round candidates in January, and aim to make fellowship decisions in March 2017.
Inquiries about the fellowship should be directed to [email protected]. Questions about the opportunity or process will not reflect negatively on an application.