Call for AI on the Ground Public Fellow

 

Deadline for applications: November 30, 2020

For questions, email fellowsapp@datasociety.net

 

About the Position

This new position at Data & Society is an opportunity for a mid-career or senior scholar, or team of two scholars, to define and shape a field of inquiry through the commissioning or curating of a body of work related to new perspectives on algorithmic governance and grounded in empirical research. The Public Fellow will have a broad mandate to engage in public scholarship, and should be especially interested in addressing issues, perspectives, and communities traditionally marginalized in discourses around data-centric technologies.   

This is a role that may be filled by an academic or non-academic scholar. The goal is to lead the creation of a body of public-facing work on the topic of algorithmic governance and to help deepen and expand our community’s understanding of the challenges and opportunities society faces in a data-centric world.

Current and past fellows are academics and computer scientists, researchers and technologists, artists and activists, journalists, lawyers, and community organizers concerned with the implications of data-centric technology’s role in reconfiguring society. We are engaged, individually and together, in interrogating and articulating those implications and developing frames that can help society address emergent tensions. We’re continuing to embrace breadth and diversity throughout the selection process.

 

Project Themes

Data & Society prioritizes ambitious empirical research projects that address complex sociotechnical questions. We are looking for a Public Fellow who has strong analytic, methodological, and theoretical foundations and who is passionate about working with a range of researchers and contributing to public understandings of AI technologies and their impacts on individuals, communities, and infrastructures. 

The Public Fellow will be responsible for producing a body of work by drawing together a diverse range of scholars and practitioners, that may take the form of a commissioned set of essays exploring one or more related topics, a series of events aiming to catalyze new conversations or intervene directly in a set of public or policy conversations, or create a body of work through new means. The audience for this work can be variable, but should go beyond specialized expert communities. 

Data & Society will provide resources to support this project, including financial support to commission work, and the in-house expertise of our Editorial, Communications, and Operations teams who bring years of experience developing and producing public research reports and events.

The theme of this body of work is new perspectives on AI governance, broadly understood and grounded in empirical research and lived experience. As a project situated within the AI on the Ground Initiative, the work should take up how the social impacts of AI can inform future governance. Ongoing and previous AI on the Ground research has examined the social and organizational processes at stake in impact assessments, the organizational configurations around implementing “ethics” in the tech industry, and the often invisible human labor that enables innovation -- from the emergency room to the grocery store. 

For this fellowship, possible areas of inquiry include:

    • Mapping community and collective harms  Current data governance focuses on individual harms, what might be alternative ways to articulate problems that people do not yet recognize? How can indigenous, feminist, and non-western intellectual traditions reframe current discourses around collective and community harms?
  • Questioning foundational concepts  What are some of the key assumptions at play in current approaches to AI governance? How can we bring these into question through interdisciplinary and intersectional perspectives? For example: What constitutes an algorithmic harm and who gets to define it? Where does innovation happen and who does it? What does it mean in practice to have public participation in AI governance?
  • Articulating paths forward What are community-centered approaches that can not only tell us about what we shouldn’t do, but also, what we CAN do? What lessons should be drawn from “on the ground practices” and changing local realities?

We invite applications for projects that intersect, develop, or complement these themes.

 

Participation & Cohort

This is not a position for those who want to spend a year heads-down on an independent project. Rather, this is a new and experimental program for those looking to collaborate and amplify important work happening beyond the headlines and outside of traditional academic journals. 

Candidates should enjoy engaging broad audiences with research, working on collaborative teams, and working closely with other scholars to develop, edit, and finish projects in a collaborative and timely manner. Successful candidates will see the value of their work within an interdisciplinary community and recognize the opportunities for growth from working in a dynamic environment. 

The AIGI Public Fellow(s) will also be invited to participate in Data & Society – both at the organizational level and with the broader community.  This engagement can take a number of different forms, from participating in seminars  to participating in regular Data & Society activities designed to strengthen community and research connections, but the primary engagement of this Public Fellowship will be to produce a body of work on AI governance through commissioning reports and other projects from other researchers. Beyond that, the choice of where and how to participate is part of the project design process between the Fellow and Data & Society staff.

Together with our in-house research team, postdoctoral scholars, and Faculty Fellows, the AIGI Public Fellow(s) will be part of the annual Data & Society cohort – a group of approximately 50 colleagues who come together as the core of Data & Society’s research and field-building efforts. Beyond the in-house cohort, Data & Society community members are also connected to past fellows, our affiliates, and a broad field of actors both in New York City and beyond who regularly pass through Data & Society for workshops, seminars, social gatherings, and talks. We continue to build on these activities and rethink their shape in the context of COVID-19 social distancing imperatives.

 

Term

Because of the size and scope of this role, we expect this appointment to be full time for one fellow, or part-time for a pair of fellows, and to occur over 18-24 months. If you are applying solo and cannot commit to the full term, please flag that in your application, as we are open to considering and accommodating some variations on terms.

 

Funding

For one fellow, this is a full time position, with a stipend of $80,000-100,000 per year, with additional, approved project costs. If we are able to accommodate a fellowship period shorter than twenty-four months, the stipend will be prorated on a monthly basis. 

For two fellows, this is a part-time position, with stipends of $40,000-50,000 per year, with additional approved project costs.

All fellows will have access to resources for remote working and programmatic and organizational support to advance project work.

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.

 

Application Process

To apply for a Data & Society fellowship, we’ll ask you to complete an application on Greenhouse. You’ll be submitting information about yourself and your work to date, including:

  • Cover letter;
  • Resume or CV;
  • Two sample scholarly publications;
  • Names and contact details of two recommenders
  • Project summary and brief proposal (approx 1000 words) including the following components:
    1. What is the topic and set of questions this project would address?
    2. How would this project compliment or expand existing related (your own or others) work?
    3. How would you imagine carrying out this project, including, what are your plans for working with other researchers to commission work in this area?

For pairs applying, only one person should submit an application containing both applicants’ materials.

Applications are due November 30, 2020. Selected applicants will be contacted for an interview with Data & Society staff, fellows, and/or advisors, and may be asked for additional information such as letters of recommendation and project budgets as they move through the review process.

The anticipated start date is February 2021.

 

About Data & Society

Founded in 2013, Data & Society is a NYC-based independent research institute. We operate as a dynamic intellectual nonprofit with strong recognition in the technology, academic, and policy sectors. Our work advances public understanding of the social and cultural implications of data-centric technologies and automation. Through interdisciplinary research and engagement, we work to ensure that knowledge guides development and governance of technology.

The issues that Data & Society seeks to address are complex. The same innovative technologies and socio-technical practices that are reconfiguring society—enabling novel modes of interaction, new opportunities for knowledge, and disruptive business paradigms—can be abused to invade people’s privacy, provide new tools of discrimination, and harm individuals and communities.

To provide frameworks that can help society address emergent tensions, Data & Society is committed to identifying thorny issues at the intersection of technology and society, providing and encouraging research that can ground informed, evidence-based public debates, and building a network of researchers and practitioners who can anticipate issues and offer insight and direction.

Data & Society’s programs bring together different perspectives, research methods, and practices. We weave together researchers, entrepreneurs, activists, policy creators, journalists, geeks, and public intellectuals. We see tremendous reciprocal benefits for network building and research when they are combined.

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.



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