Translating Research for Action: Ideas and Examples for Informing Digital Policy

September 26, 2016

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society is pleased to release this series of papers, which aims to build a bridge between academic research and policymaking in the networked world by helping to identify opportunities in key areas related to digital technology and innovation. The series builds on the Center’s commitment to exploring new ways to communicate, educate, and inform in the public interest and are informed by conversations and collaborations with diverse stakeholders in each area. “Networked Policy Making Avenues” takes a process perspective and outlines different channels and methods available for academics to inform policymaking. The additional papers presented in the form of short, synthesizing research briefings have a substantive orientation and serve as examples in action. Focusing on critical topics such as how privacy intersects with issues related to students, open data, and cybersecurity, these briefings experiment with formats that may be more useful and accessible to decision makers than traditional research papers. Each can be viewed as resource that stands on its own, and we hope each will provide a navigation aid vis-a-vis some of today’s controversially debated topics in digital policymaking.

Understanding Harmful Speech Online 
This paper offers reflections and observations on the state of research related to harmful speech online. The perspectives outlined here are grounded in the lessons from a year of exploratory work in the field by researchers at the Berkman Klein Center and collaborating researchers and institutions. Our review includes an assessment of the efforts of civil society organizations to address racist speech in Brazil and Colombia; a study of the legal foundations of harmful speech regulation in India; a mixed methods look at discourse among white identity groups in the United States; an attempt to track offensive speech online in Tunisia; and a paper that explores the definitional and framing questions that complicate efforts to study and address harmful speech online. We also highlight a small selection of other recent efforts in the field.
Authored by: Rob Faris, Amar Ashar, Urs Gasser, and Daisy Joo

Networked Policy Making Avenues: Assessing the Role of Academics in Digital Policy 
There are a growing number of examples that point toward a change in the way public policy is made in the digital age. This new context, which we refer to as networked policymaking, involves a greater variety of actors and voices, often collaborating in formal and informal networks, taking part in a public consideration and debate of policy questions via digital media. In this document, we seek to (1) describe the different avenues and modalities in which academics can have an impact on policy, and (2) offer a framework to help researchers and other constituents assess the role of academics in policymaking. We hope that this may serve to help researchers build research agendas and policy roadmaps for engagement in specific locales and around salient policy issues. Although the focus of this document is on academics and policymaking, the questions of priorities, focus, and emphasis should be informed by the perspectives and insights of all the various stakeholders that interact, support, and draw upon academic work.
Authored by: Amar AsharRob Faris, and Urs Gasser
Student Privacy and Ed Tech (K-12) Research Briefing 
Foundational changes at the intersection of technology, society, law, and behavior are disrupting and energizing large institutions, impacting the educational technologies and student privacy landscape at lightning speed. Greater levels of connectivity and participation are raising questions about how best to navigate new types of learning environments, how best to engage in data-driven decision-making, and how best to ensure channels for positive collaboration in decision-making. This research briefing builds upon student privacy research and activities, and aims to translate these into practical take-aways. The briefing provides a map of the current digital learning ecosystem in the U.S. primary and secondary space, surveys at a high-level critical issues in the ed tech and student privacy space, and outlines key tools and opportunities for decision-makers.
Authored by: Leah Plunkett and Urs Gasser
Privacy and Open Data Research Briefing 
Political leaders and civic advocates are increasingly recommending that open access be the “default state” for much of the information held by government agencies. Over the past several years, they have driven the launch of open data initiatives across hundreds of national, state, and local governments. These initiatives are founded on a presumption of openness for government data and have led to the public release of large quantities data through a variety of channels. At the same time, much of the data that have been released, or are being considered for release, pertain to the behavior and characteristics of individual citizens, highlighting tensions between open data and privacy. This research briefing offers a snapshot of recent developments in the open data and privacy landscape, outlines an action map of various governance approaches to protecting privacy when releasing open data, and identifies key opportunities for decision-makers seeking to respond to challenges in this space.
Authored by: Alexandra WoodDavid R. O’Brien, and Urs Gasser

Privacy and Cybersecurity Research Briefing 
Cybersecurity has evolved into a pressing issue that sits at the top of government policy and board room agendas as the prevalence and severity of incidents continue to increase. As we search for solutions, public and private sector actors must balance the numerous tensions inherent in securing products and services, keeping users safe, and maintaining a vibrant and innovative ecosystem that supports the continued development of new products. This research briefing aims to translate findings from ongoing Berkman Klein Center privacy and cybersecurity research and activities into practical considerations and takeaways for key stakeholders and decision-makers. It offers a snapshot of the cybersecurity ecosystem and the forces shaping it, a map of high-level overview of several current approaches aimed at addressing cybersecurity challenges, and identifies opportunities for collaborative approaches that will help prepare decision-makers to address the next generation of pressing cybersecurity issues.
Authored by: David R. O’BrienRyan BudishRob Faris , Urs Gasser, and Tiffany Lin





Last updated

December 9, 2016