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 (defined below) 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 potential benefits of new technologies. Yet these leaders are often subject to historical and ongoing forms of discrimination and underrepresented in every sector where technology is produced, deployed, and integrated into daily life.
Therefore, a fellowship program is needed not only to support this critical work but also to mitigate long-standing inequities. Through regular convenings and workshops, as well as through purposeful engagement with key external stakeholders and peer organizations, the program seeks to establish generative and lasting connections. The fellowship is designed not only to support a researcher’s work but also to invest in their entire person and to build a community of support and collaboration.
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 that may range 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 takes a comprehensive view of society in all its diversity.
This value reflects our understanding that rigorous research is conducted across fields and methodologies—not simply within the academy. Researchers and practitioners from different backgrounds and lived experiences use different theories, methods, practices, and tools to make systematic observations, build new knowledge, and mobilize for change.
Finally, the Just Tech program believes that research has a “social” life and that research is a social process. We use research to inform our thought and practice, and these in turn inform our research. For some of us, the interaction between research and practice is blurred, and this is especially true of research at the intersection of tech development and social justice. Many researchers and practitioners in this interdisciplinary and inter-sector space are motivated by questions that are neither abstract nor detached from their own lives, and their work often straddles the boundaries of scholarship, practice, and action.
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. We take a capacious view of “researchers and practitioners.” Successful applicants will demonstrate a track record of success in their respective fields as well as 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 American, Hispanic/LatinX, Indigenous People or Alaska Native groups, gender non-conforming individuals, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people with disabilities.
Eligibility & Fellowship Application Process
When are applications due?
The application for a Just Tech Fellowship is a two-part process: (1) expression of interest form and (2) full application.
In order to access the full application portal, applicants must submit an expression of interest (EOI) form between November 9, 2021, and January 2, 2022. EOIs enable Just Tech to collect information about the applicant pool and to communicate with prospective applicants about deadlines. EOIs will not be used to evaluate an application. EOIs can be submitted through the EOI portal.
Full applications are due no later than January 30, 2022 at 11:59 pm. Applications must be submitted through the application portal, which will be received via email by those who submit an expression of interest. For further information, contact the Just Tech program directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that the portal will open on January 3, 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 you finish each section of the application. Once you have submitted the application, you cannot work on it again. We recommend you have all application materials prepared before you begin the application process.
Do I have to be a US resident or citizen to be a fellow?
Applicants must reside in the United States, and fellows are expected to reside primarily in the United States during the term of their fellowship. Anyone residing in the US is welcome to apply regardless of citizenship or immigration status, and fellows’ work does not need to have a US focus. The SSRC will not sponsor fellows for visas. To learn more about visa requirements, please refer to the US State Department.
Do I need to answer all of the questions on the application form?
Yes. Only complete applications will be considered.
What resources are available to support me throughout the application process?
Before beginning the application, please review the Selection Criteria and Timeline page on the Just Tech website.
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 Application Portal to supply the necessary information. Applicants will receive access to the application via email if they submit an expression of interest by January 2, 2022.
How can I find out whether the program has received my application?
An acknowledgment of receipt will be sent automatically via email upon successful submission of the application. If you do not receive an automatic email confirmation within 24 hours of submitting your application, please contact email@example.com. 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 American, Hispanic/LatinX, Indigenous People or Alaska Native groups, gender non-conforming individuals, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people with disabilities, are strongly encouraged to apply.
How many fellows are there?
In its first year, Just Tech will support a cohort of approximately six fellows. In subsequent years, the number of fellows will increase. However, given the desire to foster strong community bonds, cohorts will not be greater than 12 fellows.
What are the selection criteria for Just Tech Fellows?
Just Tech Fellows will be selected according to the following five criteria:
● Critical Research Question: Applicants must state clearly what question(s) they seek to answer with a Just Tech Fellowship.
● 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.
● Commitment to Program Themes: Applicants should demonstrate a commitment to research that engages purposefully with questions of technology, inequity, and social justice, especially as they relate to the cohort theme of “Crisis and Reparation.”
● 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.
● 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 Selection Committee, composed of members of the Just Tech Advisory Board, an interdisciplinary, and a cross-sector panel of experts. From mid-March through mid-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 inaugural cohort of the Just Tech Fellowship will begin its term in 2022.
What is the fellowship term?
The Fellowship must not begin earlier than June 1, 2022, and no later than August 1, 2022. The Fellowship ends on June 1, 2024.
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. Exceptions to the $30,000 limit may be made dependent on extenuating circumstances.
● Seed Funding: Each year, fellows are eligible to apply for additional funding to support projects undertaken in collaboration with other fellows. Amounts will vary by need and availability, but 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 a virtual 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. The workshop will also include introductions of all the fellows and their previous and current work plans and projects.
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.
Just Tech Fellows will be encouraged to affiliate with a US institution to support collaboration, connection, outreach, and dissemination of work. These may include, but are not limited to, colleges and universities, nonprofit advocacy organizations, museums, think tanks and research institutes, or newspapers and other publications. Fellows may continue to affiliate with their home institutions. If applicants do not have a home institution, they may indicate a preferred affiliation on the application, and the Just Tech program will assist fellows with securing institutional affiliation.
What is the time commitment?
Just Tech Fellowships are remote, two-year, full-time research fellowships. Applicants should indicate how time for the fellowship would be used and managed, especially vis-a-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 more frequent check-ins with members of their cohort. Regular program events will be remote. Safety and health concerns permitting, at least one event will be held in person.
What obligations will the fellowship recipient have to Just Tech?
Fellows must commit to attending a virtual onboarding workshop and once-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 otherwise 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 different disciplines 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 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.
What topic(s) should fellowship projects align with?
Just Tech invites applicants to reflect on how technology is implicated in the ways societies address—or fail to address—crises, and how technology may be leveraged in service of empathic and community-centered repair and reparation. This call invites applicants to explore the following questions, among others:
● How do new technologies mitigate or reinforce long-term inequities during and after crises? How does technology diminish or enhance community resilience in times of crisis?
● How can different ways of creating and communicating knowledge—from art to data science to community-based research—help us better understand the relationship between crisis and technology? How can these explorations enable us to imagine alternative futures in the aftermath of a crisis?
● How can the lived experiences of marginalized peoples—such as ethnic and religious minorities, gender nonconforming and disabled communities, and those living in poverty—inform the design of just technologies, especially in the face of crisis?
These questions are meant to be suggestive and are by no means exhaustive. Applicants are invited to submit proposals that will inspire new thought, new questions, and new interventions.The fellowship encourages candidates to to push the boundaries of our understanding of how technology shapes our experience of crises—current, past, or future—and how crises shape our experience of technology.
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 designed to be a full-time pursuit (35 hours a week) for the two-year term of the fellowship. If the full-time expectation presents a significant barrier to the selected fellows, we will discuss potential alternative options individually.
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. To learn more about Just Tech and our funders, visit our program page.
Who can I contact if I have questions about my fellowship application submission?
If you have a content-related question, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. When possible, please provide the fellowship application reference number. If your question is related to technical support, contact email@example.com and copy firstname.lastname@example.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.