How can we foster meaningful dialogue and create shared knowledge in a digital world shaped by algorithms? What do we do about harassment and conflict that threaten the strength and diversity of public discourse?

Over the last year and a half, communities have told us your big questions and your hopes for flourishing digital societies. Now thanks to a combined $1.3 million dollars in funding from the Templeton World Charity Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, we can continue working together to answer those questions.

I am thrilled to see these investments in community-led research for a safer, fairer, more understanding internet. And I’m proud of what the CAT Lab team and our partner communities will achieve with this exciting opportunity.

About CAT Lab

The Citizens and Technology Lab (CAT Lab) at Cornell University envisions a world where digital power is guided by evidence and accountable to the public. We work with communities to test ideas for improving social life online and study the effects of technology on society in the public interest.

To achieve this mission, CAT Lab does industry-independent citizen science. We collaborate with communities and movements to discover practical, replicable knowledge that contributes to science and is guided by the people affected by digital power.

CAT Lab has worked with communities of tens of millions worldwide to test ways to prevent online harassment, audit content moderation policies, minimize the algorithmic spread of misinformation, document impacts of tech policies on freedom of expression, and audit powerful election-related algorithms. By designing and maintaining the software that coordinates this research, we also work to grow the scale of similar public-interest citizen science.

Communities have told us your questions and hopes for flourishing digital societies. Now we can answer those questions together.

About the grants

In 2019 and 2020, CAT Lab held a series of community research summits to discover questions that communities are excited to study together. We developed these grant proposals by identifying ideas that could also contribute to science and policy:

With $999,637 over three years from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, we plan to advance social science by testing ways to improve online dialogue and knowledge creation. The studies in this grant will focus on constructive dialogue, social connection, and social norms. We also plan to ask questions about the generalizability of research findings informed by machine-learning and develop methods to advance science with adaptive experimentation.  

The two-year, $300k grant from the MacArthur Foundation will focus on growing our industry-independent research alongside online communities. These studies will focus on strengthening participation and discourse by marginalized voices, improving civic discourse during political conflict, and scaling citizen science audits of digital policies by humans and algorithms.

Both grants also support us to widen the circle of our academic researchers and develop CAT Lab’s scientific advisory board. We will be contacting potential collaborators and publicizing upcoming workshops soon.

CAT Lab is Hiring

With this new funding, CAT Lab can now build a team that will work together with communities and collaborators on these exciting projects. We are hiring two positions: a Deputy Director and a (postdoc) Research Manager. We also plan to announce a data engineer position soon, so keep an eye out for future announcements!

Deputy Director: The Deputy Director will build Citizens and Technology Lab (CAT) Lab alongside the PI, focusing on strategy, organization building, management, and administration. We are seeking a creative institution-builder who is energized to imagine and establish a public-interest research organization within one of the world’s leading universities. Read the posting on WorkDay.

Research Manager (Postdoctoral Associate): The Research Manager’s primary responsibility is to manage the overall portfolio of CAT Lab studies, in collaboration with the CAT Lab team. The Research Manager will also have opportunities to develop and lead individual research projects at the intersection of community goals and your own research interests. Read the posting on Academic Jobs Online.

Thank You!

These grants have been made possible through the creativity and effort of hundreds of people. The vision behind these grants comes directly from so many community representatives and researchers who contributed to our summits. The CAT Lab team worked together to develop these grants, and has built a strong track record of envisioning and implementing bold visions like this one. The Communication Department at Cornell has been a wonderfully-supportive academic home for me and CAT Lab over the last 18 months. And so many advisors helped steer and encourage us along the way.

I am especially grateful to Global Voices, who hosted CAT Lab throughout its early days, and to all of the university staff who have worked tirelessly to help CAT Lab transition to Cornell during a complicated pandemic year. THANKS everyone!