In 2015, Latanya Sweeney received a $250,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to engage a network of scholars and students across the country to explore and scientifically investigate the unforeseen consequences of technology.
The MacArthur grant funded a wide array of activities at Harvard, among them: a “Car Hacking Exploration” wherein network members sought to test ideas and identify vulnerabilities in cars, including the sharing of personal information between cars and apps; “Hack-a-thons” in which Segways, personal robots, online dolls, and other devices were studied for vulnerabilities including the sharing of private information; and Summer Internships, which enabled students to come together to work on problems in the public interest. An outcome of these grant-funded activities was the approval of a new undergraduate program in Harvard’s Department of Government called Tech Science for Students. With data privacy issues emerging as one of the thorniest challenges societies face in the digital age, the findings of the Sweeney research and the work that continues to be done in this area should not be underestimated.
The scientific and intellectual strength of these investigations clearly arose from the leadership of the Principle Investigator, Latanya Sweeney, and the colleagues and students who joined the network. But the grant could not have been undertaken without the expertise and technical assistance of the IQSS sponsored research team, which worked with Professor Sweeney in the grant application phase to develop the proposal’s budget and narrative as well as an array of other compliance documents, to coordinate the application submission with FAS’s Research Administration Services and Harvard’s Office for Sponsored Programs, and reviewing and approving travel and other expenses related research activities. Additionally, the IQSS HR office facilitated the research by working with the PI on posting and filling positions funded by the grant.
Partnerships between faculty PIs and staff such as this are critical to the success of sponsored research at Harvard, and IQSS is proud to be part of that success.