ATLANTA – A new research partnership is connecting Georgia State University social scientists with Georgia Tech computer scientists in a unique collaboration to address historic social inequities.
The partnership will be in the form of a two-semester fellowship program for 16 faculty members, eight from each university, split into pairs. Each pair will match a Georgia Tech computer scientist with a Georgia State social scientist, working together to develop interdisciplinary projects addressing historic and continuing inequity challenges in the southeastern United States.
The Public Interest Technology Universities Network (PITUN) will fund this program with a $180,000 grant supported by the Ford Foundation, New America and the Hewlett Foundation. The grant is the first of its kind awarded by PITUN.
“This collaboration is a unique opportunity to showcase the power of computer science to drive meaningful social progress, as well as the impact that interdisciplinary research can have on real-world issues,” said Ellen Zegura, Georgia Tech computer science professor and co-lead on the fellowship program.
Susan Snyder, a School of Social Work associate professor, and Scott Jacques, an associate professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, are co-leads with Zegura on the project. Both Snyder and Jacques are faculty in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, which is working on new programs to advance the knowledge and use of public interest technologies.
“We are excited about the opportunity this collaboration provides us to harness technology to improve conditions in our Atlanta community,” said Snyder.
“This project is great for Georgia,” Jacques added. “Georgia Tech and Georgia State are excellent schools. We’re even better when working together.”
The grant is one of 27 awarded today as part of PITUN’s inaugural “Network Challenge,” which supports the development of new public interest technology initiatives, especially those that bring together multiple partner schools.
At the end of the two-semester program, the eight teams will present their collaborative projects during a public showcase. The projects will also be documented on a program website, and the program’s structure and materials will be made publicly available for use at other institutions.
According to Zegura, who is the Stephen Fleming Chair in Telecommunications at the Georgia Tech School of Computer Science, the progress won’t end when this initial fellowship does.
“Of course, we can’t solve historic issues of inequity in two semesters,” Zegura said. “But we can highlight current public interest challenges in the region, identify potential solutions, and create resources for those at colleges and universities across the Southeast that are interested in picking up the torch on these important issues.”
PITUN, which was convened earlier this year, is a partnership of 21 colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology, as well as growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists and digitally fluent policy leaders.
Written by: Albert Snedeker, Georgia Institute of Technology