GC2 Democracy

GC2 Democracy

SIF201 Grand Challenge Research Investment Phase 2: Digital Technology and Democracy Initiative

Project Manager: Laurent Dubois

Approved: Fall 2023

Project Dates: 1/1/2024 – 12/31/2028

Total Funding: $7,500,000

Executive Summary

The University of Virginia is poised to take the lead in addressing a major global challenge: ensuring that rapidly evolving digital technologies fortify, rather than undermine, democratic institutions and practices. We will bring together research and practice in innovative ways that create collaboration and exchange between academia, policy makers, and the technology industry. Building on existing but still too fragmented strengths at UVA, our proposed investment will catalyze the project of crafting digital technology for democracy. We will pursue this through the following two initiatives:

The Technology & Democracy Fellows program will support post-doctoral fellowships. This transdisciplinary, university-wide investment will bring the best emerging researchers working at the intersection fields to UVA, helping to train a critical mass of the next generation of scholars and leaders and serving to connect and accelerate faculty research. Fellows will be brought together, along with faculty mentors, regularly to share their research and to build community. They will also be invited to participate in the activities of the Technology and Democracy Exchange. We hope the fellows program will lead to a range of scholarly publications but also various kinds of public scholarship and outputs with policy implications.

The Technology and Democracy Exchange will bring practitioners in the technology industries and government/policy spheres together with academic researchers for intensive exchange and collaborative work. The goal of this conversation and consultation between different leadership and practice sectors will be to help envision and design an ecosystem in which digital technologies sustain democracy. These programs will range from half-day to day-long workshops to intensive one- to two-week sessions for training and research development. The Exchange activities will be animated by the goal of creating new conversations that will have a sustained impact on how industry and government think and act on this issue. In our first year, we will focus particularly on questions about the potential impact of evolving versions of AI.

The successful harnessing of digital technology in support of democracy is one of the most pivotal projects of our time and has the potential to change the cultural and political dynamics in societies around the globe. We at UVA can and should play a creative and courageous role in this project. In so doing, we will be fulfilling and sustaining the core mission of the university while also demonstrating the critical role universities have in fortifying and nourishing the future of democracy.

Current Status: Award in Progress