What is the Just Tech Fellowship?

The Social Science Research Council’s Just Tech Fellowship is a remote, two-year, full-time research fellowship that will support a diverse and cross-sector community of researchers and practitioners to imagine and create more just technological futures.

Why is this fellowship important?

Members of communities that have been most impacted by the rollout of new technologies have pioneered work to uncover the harms and examine the potential benefits of new technologies. Yet these leaders are often subject to historical and ongoing discrimination and are underrepresented in every sector where technology is produced, deployed, and integrated into daily life.

Therefore, a fellowship program is needed to support this critical work and mitigate long-standing inequities. The Just Tech program seeks to establish generative and lasting connections through regular convenings and workshops and purposeful engagement with key external stakeholders and peer organizations. The fellowship is designed to support a researcher’s work, invest in their entire person, and build a community of support and collaboration.

Who is the Just Tech Fellowship for?

Just Tech seeks a diverse pool of applicants whose work and lived experience inform critical perspectives on the nature of technology, power, and inequity—and who are invested in imagining and creating more just technological futures. Successful applicants will demonstrate a track record of success in their respective fields and a proclivity for collaboration and exchange across fields and sectors.

Just Tech prioritizes the composition of a collaborative cohort that is epistemologically diverse, sector-diverse, and demographically diverse, including members of historically and systematically marginalized communities, such as Black/African Americans, Latinx/Hispanics, Indigenous peoples or Alaska Native groups, gender nonconforming individuals, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people with disabilities.

How does Just Tech define “research”?

Just Tech Fellowships are intended to support individuals who leverage social research about technology to inform public interest projects ranging from book manuscripts to art installations to designing a platform to founding a nonprofit organization.

A central value of the Just Tech program is that research should serve the interests of the public. The creation of this fellowship was motivated by a recognition that a disproportionate amount of research about the role of technology in society was either (a) conducted with a narrow understanding of who a typical technology “user” is or (b) produced for a narrow corporate audience. When we say social research, we mean public interest research that comprehensively views society in all its diversity.

This value reflects our understanding that research is conducted across sectors and methodologies—not simply within the academy. Researchers and practitioners from different backgrounds and lived experiences use theories, methods, practices, and tools to make systematic observations, build new knowledge, and mobilize for change.

Just Tech Fellows come from diverse backgrounds and work across a range of fields and practices, including the arts, journalism, civil society, and the social sciences, the humanities, and computer science.

Eligibility & Fellowship Application Process

When are applications due?

Please submit your complete application at https://ssrc.secure-platform.com/a. Complete applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. The last day to submit Full Application Materials is January 30, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Note that the portal will open on December 6, 2022.

Do I have to complete the application all at once?

You may work on the application in multiple sessions, though you will need to save your work after finishing each application section. Once you have applied, you cannot work on it again. We recommend you prepare all application materials before you begin the application process.

Do I have to be a US resident or citizen to be a fellow?

Citizens of any country may apply, but fellows will be expected to reside in the United States during their fellowship term. The SSRC will not sponsor visas, and may not be indicated as an affiliate or sponsor of visa applications. Please refer to the US State Department to learn more about visa requirements.

May I submit my application by fax or email?

No. Applications sent by fax or email will not be accepted. Applicants must use the SSRC’s Online Portal.

How can I find out whether the program has received my application?

Upon successful application submission, an acknowledgment of receipt will be sent automatically via email. If you do not receive an automatic email confirmation within 24 hours of submitting your application, please contact just-tech@ssrc.org. Please specify “Just Tech Fellowship” in the subject line.

If I submit my application before the deadline, can I change it?

No alterations will be accepted after the application has been submitted.

Selection & Review Process

How does this program embrace diversity?

Applicants from diverse backgrounds, including historically and systematically marginalized communities such as Black/African Americans, Latinx/Hispanics, Indigenous peoples or Alaska Native groups, gender nonconforming individuals, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people with disabilities, are strongly encouraged to apply.

How many fellows are there?

In its second year, Just Tech will support a cohort of approximately eight fellows.

What are the selection criteria for Just Tech Fellows?

Fellows will be selected on the basis of a rigorous review process. We will evaluate applications according to the following criteria:

●  Alignment with Fellowship Goals: Applicants must champion vital research into tech’s impact and its potential for both harm and benefit; must center historically minoritized or racialized perspectives; must show commitment to building and sustaining a diverse community of researchers and practitioners; and must demonstrate a commitment to vision and build toward technological futures that manifest justice, agency, knowledge, and joy.

●  Scope of Work: Project must address the relationship between digital and novel technologies, power, and social justice.

●  Clarity of Purpose: Applicants should communicate how they would use their time as a fellow to systematically uncover evidence, build understanding, and shape public interest solutions to advance the goals of Just Tech.

●  Public Impact: Applicants should communicate how their proposed work will contribute to equity and social justice. Applicants should also demonstrate a track record of successful, public-facing work that engages broad audiences through different forms of media or organizing.

●  Collaboration: Applicants should demonstrate a track record of successful collaboration, as well as a willingness to share, learn, and create with others.

How will you review and select applicants? 

Applications will first be screened by Just Tech staff. Complete applications will advance to be reviewed by the by the Just Tech Advisory Board and its Selection Committee, a cross-sector panel of experts. From March through April, top applicants may be contacted by Just Tech staff for a video/telephone interview, additional information, and/or clarification of information relevant to the application. All final selections will be made by mid-May. Those applicants chosen will be immediately notified by phone and email. All other applicants will be notified by email.

About the Fellowship

When will the Just Tech Fellowship start?

The second cohort of the Just Tech Fellowship will begin its term in the Summer of 2023.

What is the fellowship term?

The Fellowship must not begin earlier than August 1, 2023. The Fellowship ends on June 30, 2025.

What does the fellowship award cover?

The fellowship award is designed to cover the whole researcher, including:

●      Awards: The Just Tech Fellowship provides fellows with unrestricted awards of $100,000 per year for two years. Awards are made to individuals and the fellowship is intended to support individual researchers, regardless of whether that individual is working alone or in collaboration with others.

●      Supplementary Funding: Supplementary funding packages of up to $30,000 are available to subsidize additional needs such as dependent care, healthcare, equipment, communications, working space, or other needs. Supplementary funding will vary in kind and amount by individual need.

●      Seed Funding: Each year, fellows are eligible to apply for additional funding to support projects undertaken in collaboration with other fellows. Seed funding is intended to encourage partnerships that would be unlikely outside of the Just Tech Fellowship.

What other support should Just Tech Fellows expect?

Along with competitive compensation and a robust supplementary funding package, Just Tech Fellows also become part of a vibrant community working to solve critical social problems at the intersection of technological development and social justice. Fellows will have the opportunity to meet regularly and have fruitful exchanges to share their work and learn together.

At the beginning of the fellowship, Just Tech will conduct an onboarding workshop that will include details on how fellows will work with the Just Tech program, how Just Tech supports collaboration, and Just Tech’s method of disseminating the fellows’ work.

Just Tech staff will work with fellows to implement and report back on project plans and impact, share ideas for potential collaborations, and provide support to help fellows scale their work’s impact. The fellowship will be complemented by a dynamic digital platform that will provide a venue for fellows to showcase their research portfolios via interviews, profiles, essays, and field reviews. Just Tech staff will help fellows share their work on the Just Tech platform.

What is the time commitment?

Just Tech Fellowships are remote, two-year, full-time fellowships. Applicants should indicate how time for the fellowship would be used and managed, especially vis-à-vis other responsibilities or work commitments. Where appropriate, applicants should indicate whether they are eligible and willing to take leave from their current position during at least one of the fellowship years. Fellows will be required to attend Just Tech Fellowship program events and are encouraged to attend frequent check-ins with members of their cohort. Regular program events will be remote.

What obligations will the fellowship recipient have to Just Tech?

Fellows must commit to attending an onboarding workshop and monthly meetings with Just Tech staff and other fellows. Fellows are expected to attend all Just Tech Fellowship events (such as the launch of another fellow’s work) and to be an active part of the Just Tech community and team. Fellows are also encouraged to attend SSRC events and talks that overlap with their interests.

What types of projects is the fellowship seeking to fund?

We are looking for diverse projects across fields focusing on the relationship between technological development, power, and social justice. To that end, we invite fellows to use their particular skill sets in technology, art, activism, research, and policy to develop projects that ultimately lay the groundwork to imagine and create technological futures that celebrate and manifest justice, equity, agency, knowledge, and joy. Proposed projects might include creating a product such as an art installation; a book, or a series of essays or journal articles; developing policy frameworks and interventions; an initiative of a nonprofit organization; designing technological tools; or other creative work products.

How do we measure the success of Just Tech Fellows?

The Just Tech Fellowship is centered on individual fellows and the community they create. Fellows are encouraged to be creative during their fellowship, modify their work plans as needed, and use their time to explore new avenues of research related to the cohort theme. For Just Tech, success is the generation of strong communities of thought and practice that will challenge and reframe assumptions about the nature of tech in society. Success is the generation of fruitful research agendas, so new questions are as important as new answers.

Would I need to leave my current job/position for the Just Tech fellowship?

The Just Tech Fellowship is a full-time pursuit (36 hours a week) for the two-year term of the fellowship. Where appropriate, applicants should indicate whether they are eligible and willing to take leave from their current position during at least one of the fellowship years.

 Do fellows have access to SSRC benefits?

Robust supplementary funding packages will augment individual awards to accommodate expenses related to health insurance, dependent care, coworking space, technical equipment, project materials, communications, or other needs. Supplementary funding will vary in kind and amount by individual need. Health insurance or other benefits are not provided directly by the SSRC for fellows.

Who funds Just Tech?

Just Tech is funded by a broad range of philanthropic foundations committed to cultivating critical work on the intersection of technology and social justice, including the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and Democracy Fund. Visit our program page to learn more about Just Tech and our funders.

Contact Information

Who can I contact if I have questions about my fellowship application submission?

If you have a content-related question, contact just-tech@ssrc.org. Please provide the fellowship application reference number. If your question is related to technical support, contact communications@ssrc.org and copy just-tech@ssrc.org. Please specify “Just Tech Fellowship” in the subject line. We value all questions and will do our best to answer them as soon as possible. However, please allow up to 48 hours for a reply.