ATLANTA—Twenty Georgia State University and Georgia Institute of Technology faculty and graduate students, recently named Public Interest Technology – University Network (PIT-UN) Fellows, are now collaborating on interdisciplinary research projects designed to address historic social and racial inequality in the Southeast.
This PIT-UN program pairs faculty from commuting and the social sciences together to advance justice and improve public well-being via technology. The projects will address problems or challenges related to public health, criminal justice, housing displacement or disinvestment, and nonprofit organizations.
Susan M. Snyder and Scott Jacques, both of Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, co-lead the fellowship program with Ellen Zegura of Georgia Tech, which administers the PIT-UN “Network Challenge” grant that funds it. The grant is the first of its kind awarded by PIT-UN, which is supported by the Ford Foundation, New America and the Hewlett Foundation.
“We are grateful to New America and the Ford and Hewlett foundations for the funding they provided for these Fellows,” Snyder said. “It is wonderful to work with our Georgia Tech colleagues to find innovate new ways to address entrenched problems.”
Following are brief descriptions of the fellows and their projects, with Georgia State faculty named first:
- Kristie Seelman and Beth Mynatt are conducting a longitudinal, multimedia, mixed-methods investigation to explore how 100 LGBTQ+ adults in the Southeast are demonstrating resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Scott Jacques and Austin Wright are developing an interactive tool to allow researchers, journalists, and members of the public to easily query information from the National Crime Victimization Survey and eventually other data sources.
- Andrew Heiss and Justin Biddle are focused on providing an ethical framework for making decisions regarding the use of technology to track, trace, and contain COVID–19.
- William Sabol and Jonathan Balloch are working on a project that uses body-camera and smart-phone video interactions between probation officers and probationers to measure whether affective states and connections between officers and supervisees improve with the officers’ use of the probation department’s preferred, evidence-based, modes of supervision.
- Thaddeus Johnson and May ElSherif are drawing on multiple data sources to examine the joint and individual effects of police education requirements and facial recognition technology on racial differences in arrests for violent, property and drug offenses in Southern U.S. cities.
- Marie Ouellet and Benjamin Shapiro are using detailed arrest records to examine the relationship between race and the mobility of crime, with the goal of understanding how crime travels (or diffuses) through an urban Southern city.
- Susan M. Snyder and Vlad Kolesnikov are writing a white paper on how data encryption skills could be used in social work contexts like child welfare, substance use treatment, mental health interventions, and building safe and secure partnerships among public service organizations.
- Fei Li, Luisa Nazareno and Ellen Zegura are exploring ways to use social media and technology to better understand the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
- Mirae Kim and Carlton Pu are developing a data platform on nonprofit organizations that will lend the organizations to large scale, rigorous studies that could inform nonprofit administrators, funders and other decision-makers. (NOTE: Kim, now at George Mason University, and Pu used these funds to successfully secure a larger NSF grant, “HNDS-I: Collaborative Research: Developing a Data Platform for Analysis of Nonprofit Organizations.”)
- Urban Studies PhD candidate Austin Harrison is scraping local administrative data from various city data portals to examine how people are displaced in the context of neighborhood change, housing policy, community, and economic development and shrinking cities.
“Our teams of computer scientists and policy experts are doing fantastic, almost unimaginable, research together—truly innovative stuff that serves the public and advances knowledge,” Jacques said. “This will be a huge benefit to our communities.”