The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University has opened its annual call for fellowship applications. This opportunity is for those who wish to spend the 2016-2017 academic year in residence in Cambridge, MA as part of Berkman’s community of pioneers, and who seek to deeply engage in the collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and cross-sectoral exploration of some of the Internet’s most interesting, challenging, and compelling issues.
Applications will be accepted until Monday December 21, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.
We invite applications from individuals from around the globe working on a broad range of opportunities and challenges related to Internet and society, which may overlap with ongoing work at Berkman or will expose us to new opportunities and approaches. We encourage applications from a diverse group of scholars, practitioners, innovators, engineers, artists, and others committed to understanding and advancing the public interest who come from — and have interest in — countries industrialized or developing, with ideas, projects, or activities in all phases on a spectrum from incubation to reflection.
Through this annual open call, we seek to advance our collective work and give it new direction, and to deepen and broaden our networked community across backgrounds, disciplines, cultures, and nations. We welcome you to read more about the program below, and to consider joining us as a fellow!
About Berkman’s Fellowship Program
“The Berkman Center’s mission is to explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms, and standards; and to assess the need or lack thereof for laws and sanctions.
We are a research center, premised on the observation that what we seek to learn is not already recorded. Our method is to build out into cyberspace, record data as we go, self-study, and share. Our mode is entrepreneurial nonprofit.”
Inspired by our mission statement, the Berkman Center’s fellowship program provides the opportunity for some of the world’s most innovative thinkers and changemakers to hone and share ideas, find camaraderie, and spawn new initiatives. The program aims to encourage and support fellows in an inviting and vibrant intellectual environment, with community activities designed to foster inquiry and to identify and expose the common threads across fellows’ individual activities.
Fellows actively participate in exchanges through a weekly fellows hour, fellows-run working groups, and a wide-range of Berkman Center events and interactions. While engaging in both substance and process, much of what makes the fellowship program rewarding is created each year by the fellows themselves to address their own interests and priorities. These entrepreneurial, collaborative ventures – ranging from goal-oriented to experimental, from rigorous to humorous – are what ensure the dynamism of the fellows, the fellowship program, and the Berkman community.
Additionally, with Berkman faculty, students, staff, and other affiliates, fellows help to develop and advance their own work and Berkman Center projects, and they learn and teach through courses, skill sharing, hacking and development sessions, cultural productions, and other gatherings.
Fellows are essential to the Berkman Center as nodes of intelligence, insight, energy, and knowledge-sharing. From their diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging physical and virtual travels, Berkman Center fellows bring fresh ideas, skills, passion, and connections to the Center and its community, and from their time spent in Cambridge help build and extend new perspectives and initiatives out into the world.
Those who have come through the program have shared reflections on their experiences, and provide great insights and specifics from an insider’s view. Sara Watson writes, “Berkman became a supportive community of people I can count on to a read a draft of something I write before I post it, or to talk through a difficult decision and urge me to find my own voice. Parts of my work this year were challenging in unexpected ways, and I’m thankful to have had the support of this inspiring and encouraging group.” Nathan Matias says, “As a fellow, you’ll be part of an amazing, supportive network of people who will help you, challenge you, and work with you to make your work more socially conscious, more visible, more effective, and more awesome.”
Also, check out the new report on 15 Lessons from the Berkman Fellows Program, written by former fellow and current Fellows Advisory Board member David Weinberger. As the report notes, it was “funded by the Ford Foundation, long a supporter of Berkman Center programs and events, to explore what makes the Berkman Fellows program successful. The aim is to derive lessons that can be applied to other institutions. We approached writing this report as a journalistic task, interviewing a cross-section of fellows, faculty, and staff, including during a group session at a Berkman Fellows Hour. From these interviews a remarkably consistent set of themes emerged.”
About Berkman Fellowships
An appointment that defies one-size-fits-all description, each Berkman fellowship carries a unique set of opportunities, responsibilities and expectations. All fellows engage issues related to the fairly limitless expanse of Internet & society issues, and are committed to the intellectual life of the Center and fellowship program activities. Some fellows work as researchers directly on Berkman Center projects. Other fellowships are driven by the fellows’ own research agenda, such as the research and writing of a manuscript or series of papers, the vision and planning of an action-oriented meeting, or the development and implementation of an initiative or a study on issues related to the Berkman Center’s areas of inquiry.
Fellowship terms typically run the course of the academic year, roughly from the beginning of September through the end of May. In some instances, fellows are re-appointed for consecutive fellowship terms.
While we embrace our many virtual connections, spending time together in person remains essential. In order to maximize their engagement with the community, during their fellowship terms fellows are expected to routinely spend time in and conduct much of their work from Cambridge, in most cases requiring residency. Tuesdays hold particular importance as it is the day the fellows community meets for a weekly fellows hour, in addition to it being the day Berkman hosts our public luncheon series; as such, we ask that fellows commit to spending as many Tuesdays at the Center as is possible.
We do not have a defined set of requirements for the fellows we select through our open call; we welcome applications from a wildly diverse range of people.
Fellows come from across the disciplinary spectrum and different life paths, and are at all stages of career development. Some fellows are academics, whether students, post-docs, or professors. Others come from outside academia, and include lawyers, philosophers, activists, technologists, entrepreneurs, journalists, and other types of practitioners.
The commonality among all Berkman fellows is an interest in the intersections of the Internet and related emergent technologies, social change, and policy and regulatory developments, as well as a commitment to spending their fellowship exploring those dynamics in concert with others.
Commitment to Diversity
The work and well-being of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society are strengthened profoundly by the diversity of our network and our differences in background, culture, experience, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and much more. We actively seek and welcome applications from people of color, women, the LGBTQIA community, and persons with disabilities, as well as applications from researchers and practitioners from across the spectrum of disciplines and methods. The roots of this deep commitment are many and, appropriately, diverse. We welcome your inquiries, comments, and ideas on how we may continue to improve.
Stipends, Benefits, and Access to University Resources
Stipends: Fellowships awarded through the open call for applications are rarely stipended. Some fellows receive partial stipends –the award of such a stipend is based on the nature of the responsibilities the applicant would assume while a fellow, and their relation, relevance, and application to Berkman’s funded projects. Most fellows receive no direct funding or stipend through the Berkman Center, but rather have obtained funding through other means, such as an outside grant or award, a home institution, or other forms of scholarship.
Benefits: Fringe benefits do not routinely accompany Berkman fellowships. Fellows must make their own housing, insurance, childcare, and transportation arrangements.
Office Space: Most Berkman fellows work out of the greater-Boston area and spend a significant amount of time at the Berkman Center. There are many desks and workspaces available for coworking and flexible use at the Berkman Center, though few fellows are given their own permanent desk or office. We endeavor to provide comfortable and productive spaces for fellows to work, even if it is not the same space each day. Fellows are welcome to host small meetings and gatherings at the Center and on the Harvard campus.
Access to University Resources: Fellows are allowed physical access into Langdell Library (the Harvard Law School Library), and fellows are able to acquire a Special Borrower Card for privileges with the Harvard College Libraries. At present, we do not routinely provide remote access to the University’s e-resources, however access is available within the libraries. Fellows do not have the ability to purchase University health insurance or get Harvard housing. Berkman fellows often audit classes at Harvard University, however must individually ask for permission directly from the professor of the desired class.
Additional Information about the Berkman Center
Since its founding in 1997, the Berkman Center has been at the forefront of the field of Internet and Society, pursuing a unique mix of interdisciplinary scholarship and engagement with legal and policy issues. We are home to a diverse group of scholars, policy experts, and advocates focused on the identification of emerging problems related to digitally-networked society and the search for solutions. Our community shares a commitment to tackle the most important challenges of the digital age, to think big, to act with ambition and humility, and to maintain academic rigor while keeping a focus on tangible real-world impact. As a University-wide Center, the Berkman Center informs and engages in the public interest through four core activities: conducting research, building tools and platforms, education, and creating and cultivating networks.
To learn more about Berkman’s current activities and interests, consider watching a video of a talk led by Berkman’s Faculty Director Jonathan Zittrain from our Fall 2015 Open House.
Frequently Asked Questions
More information about fellows selection and the application process can be found on our Fellows Program FAQ.
Required Application Materials
1.) A current resume or C.V.
2.) A personal statement which should a) frame your motivation for applying for a Berkman Center fellowship and b) outline the work you propose to conduct during a fellowship. This statement should be roughly 1,000 – 1,500 words or should be a multi-media equivalent.
3.) A copy of a recent publication or an example of relevant work. For a written document, for instance, it should be on the order of a paper or chapter – not an entire book or dissertation – and should be in English.
4.) Two letters of recommendation, sent directly from the reference.*
In addition to the above materials, we will ask applicants to share some additional information in a form as part of the application.
1.) Disciplinary background: Up to two disciplines in which you have been trained and/or have worked.
2.) Tags: Five tags that describe or represent the themes, issues, or ideas you know about and on which you propose to conduct work during a fellowship at Berkman; and five tags that represent work, themes, issues, or ideas that you do not currently know much about, but would like to explore and learn more about during a fellowship year. Each tag should be one- to three- words or terms.
3.) Berkman projects of interest; please learn more about some of our institutional research initiatives here.
To Apply for a 2016-2017 Academic Year Fellowship Through Our Open Call
Applications will be submitted online through our Application Tracker tool at:
The application deadline is Monday December 21, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.
Instructions for creating an account and submitting an application through the Application Tracker may be found here.
* Note related to recommendation letters: Recommendation letters will be captured through the Application Tracker, and will require applicants to submit the names and contact information for references in advance of the application deadline. References will receive a link at which they can upload their letters. We recommend that applicants create their profiles and submit reference information in the Application Tracker as soon as they know they are going to apply and have identified their references – this step will not require other fellowship application materials to be submitted.
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