Princeton's tech policy clinic builds ‘virtuous loop’ of real-world research and learning
Wikipedia’s wealth of cited information comes from a global community of more than 250,000 editors who contribute content each month. Upholding community standards and fostering diversity and inclusion are major goals for the Wikimedia Foundation — goals that depend on creating software that reflects and reinforces the community’s values.
Over the past year, the foundation has partnered with researchers at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) to explore how creative uses of technology can help Wikimedia embrace and elevate a broader group of voices on Wikipedia and in other knowledge-sharing projects. Wikimedia was among the first participants in the case study series of CITP’s tech policy clinic.
The clinic, now in its second academic year, seeks to strengthen ties between Princeton researchers and policymakers in government, industry and the nonprofit sector — a central focus for CITP, which was founded in 2005 as a joint initiative of Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Public and International Affairs.
The clinic has proven to be “transformational” for CITP and for policy work at Princeton, said Matthew Salganik, the director of CITP and a professor of sociology. “It expands on our tradition of public service, and enables exciting pathways to bring our research and people out into the world, and also bring the ideas and problems of the world into CITP to fuel our research and teaching.”
The case studies are a key part of this work, allowing faculty, postdocs and students to engage directly on tech policy issues with organizations such as Wikimedia, The New York Times and the Federal Election Commission. The clinic also hosts policy roundtables on specific topics and trains students through independent work seminars and a summer fellowship. (Due to COVID-19, these activities have been held virtually since March 2020.)
Clinic Lead Mihir Kshirsagar calls the clinic’s work “a virtuous loop of activities,” in which real-world problems inform research and teaching, and researchers’ findings and approaches help guide tech policy decisions.
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