ATLANTA – Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Computing recently hosted a half-day workshop to kick off their new collaborative research fellowship. The Southeast Region Public Interest Technology Fellows Program will pair social scientists from Georgia State with technologists from Georgia Tech to address social challenges through computing.
Around 40 faculty members and graduate students participated in the January 9 workshop at Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology. They were there to meet potential collaborators, learn more about each other’s research and explore ideas for joint projects in public interest technology.
“This topic calls for disciplinary expertise that we have in spades at both Georgia Tech and Georgia State. This work is really calling for this type of partnership,” said Ellen Zegura of Georgia Tech’s School of Computer Science and program co-lead. She opened the workshop with a presentation on some of Georgia Tech’s current work in this area.
Georgia State’s co-organizers, Susan M. Snyder of the School of Social Work and Scott Jacques of the Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, then presented overviews of the university’s research in policy areas including homelessness, health disparities, poverty and criminal justice, showing how these areas connect to technology.
During a breakout session Snyder described as a “speed-dating round for research,” workshop participants presented their individual research strengths and areas where they could use more expertise.
“After this round, the researchers coalesced around areas that sounded interesting to them,” she said. “For example, computing experts interested in the education and child welfare research our Georgia Policy Labs is doing met with its director, Maggie Reeves, and told her how they could make the lab’s applied research sing with their skills.”
“Georgia Tech and Georgia State are the perfect match for tackling inequality, especially in the South. They bring the technical expertise and we bring the topical expertise. We can point them towards data and theories and problems in the policy arena they didn’t know about,” said Jacques. “This is the kind of collaboration our state needs.”
Next, in teams, the researchers will write seed grant proposals for their projects, which will be funded with mini-grants. At the end of the two-semester program, the teams will present their collaborative projects during a public showcase.
The Ford Foundation and New America formed the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) in 2018 to encourage the development of education and research in “the study and application of technology expertise to advance the public interest, generate public benefits, and promote the public good.” In 2019, the network funded the Southeast Region Public Interest Technology Fellows Program with a $180,000 grant, the first of its kind awarded by PIT-UN. The fellowship program is part of Georgia Tech’s new Center for Computing and Society.
“We have applied to join PIT-UN with Georgia Tech and its 20 other charter members,” said AYSPS Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Initiatives Ann-Margaret Esnard. “We expect this PIT-UN fellowship and membership will provide many new avenues for the AYSPS to promote research and curriculum related to public interest technology and help drive our Digital Landscape Initiative forward.”
Original story written by
Alyson Powell Key
Research Communications Program Manager
Institute for People and Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology
Edited for the AYS New Hub by Jennifer Giarratano
Andrew Young School of Policy Studies