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Call for student applications

“Digital Ethics in Times of Crisis: COVID-19 and Access to Education and Learning Spaces”

Interested in real-world problem-solving and research with impact? Looking for new mentorship and networking opportunities? Join our Fall 2020 online research sprint open to Masters- and PhD-level students from all disciplines and geographies.

Deadline To Apply: Thursday, October 8, 2020 by 5:00pm EDT

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The Berkman Klein Center’s Ethics of Digitalization initiative, in collaboration with the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers and under the patronage of the Federal President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is looking for students who want to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team from mid-October to mid-December 2020 on the ethical, societal, and policy challenges posed by COVID-19 as it disrupts education and learning for billions of learners across the globe. The goal of the sprint is to produce an output to help policy-makers around the world address COVID-19’s short and long-term impact on education and learning.

In a nutshell:

  • The research sprint is hosted by the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University and will take place virtually from October 15th-December 18th.
  • The program brings together leading experts and mentors from the Berkman Klein Center and its global partner organizations.
  • The program consists of three elements: A series of 8 anchoring sessions online, small-group research in teams, and occasional “social” gatherings for networking and mentorship. 
  • Average time commitment of up to 10 hours a week, depending on your capacities.
  • Students at the Master- and PhD level from all disciplines are invited to apply and will be actively involved in all parts of the program.
  • We invite participation from students globally.
  • Students who complete the program will be eligible for a stipend of up to $1,500.

What we offer student participants:

  • Research with impact: A unique opportunity to participate in hands-on research activities on a pressing issue and with real-world impact opportunity. 
  • Mentorship and networking: Work in small-groups mentored by leading experts in the field of digital technology, education, policy, and ethics and make connections.
  • Skill building: As part of an interdisciplinary research team and on an accelerated timeline, improve and expand your research and collaboration skills. 

What we are looking for:

  • Passion for interdisciplinary research in a novel and highly collaborative program.
  • Excellent academic qualifications (near-completed Masters degree; PhD in progress/planned or advanced PhD, post-doctoral researcher).
  • Fluency in English and knowledge of one other language a plus.
  • Commitment to take part in weekly 2-hour virtual sessions between mid-October and mid-December and a willingness to attend periodic social gatherings.
  • Average time commitment of up to 10 hours a week, depending on your capacities.
  • Motivation to produce research outputs within the time of the sprint and to contribute to a joint publication.


The Fall 2020 BKC Research Sprint will focus on aspects of ethics, human rights, and social impact regarding digital transformation with focus on education and learning at a moment of unprecedented crisis. Young people and adult learners around the globe have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to access to education—both in terms of educational resources and learning spaces such as schools, campuses, museums, studios, clubhouses, afterschool, maker-spaces, etc.—with unforeseen consequences for their economic futures, flourishing, and well-being. 

At this moment and intersection, digital technologies highlight both opportunities and possible long-lasting challenges that have profound ethical implications for decades to come: At its best, digital technology can be used during the COVID-lockdowns to promote and support learning across spheres and barriers. At its worst, digital technologies create new inequalities between digital have and have nots and amplify surveillance concerns. 

The goal of the Research Sprint is to produce a map of the relevant issues and corresponding questions that policy-makers around the globe need to address in order to harness the benefits of digital tech while avoiding some of the possible downsides during the current crisis—and as we collectively need to prepare better for the next crisis. 

The Research Sprint contains three main elements: (1) A set of anchor sessions where the cohort meets weekly and engages in substantive issues together with domain experts and mentors; (2) weekly small-group working sessions in collaboration with mentors focused on collaboratively producing the issue map; (3) periodic informal gatherings, including social hours, hangouts, and white spaces. 

The program will take place virtually from and involve students as well as experts and mentors from the Berkman Klein Center and the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers.  


  • Please apply by filling out this application form by Thursday, October 8, 2020 by 5:00 pm EDT. Applicants will receive notification of admission no later than Tuesday, October 13th by 5:00pm EDT. The form will require that you upload:
    • Your CV or Resume
    • A motivation letter explaining your interest in the research sprint, your research background, and your skills (no more than 300 words in English)

Support and Stipends: 

  • Students who complete the program will be eligible for a stipend of up to $1,500. 
  • International students: Please note that the Research Sprint welcomes international participants who are participating remotely without entry to the US; or who already are sponsored to be in the United States and whose status allows them to engage in collaborative research and to receive a stipend. Applicants with ESTA status or B visas are not eligible. Please consult your legal counsel if you have questions about your eligibility.

Faculty and Mentors:

  • Led by Professor Urs Gasser, Executive Director, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Professor of Practice, Harvard Law School in collaboration with colleagues from the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers and Berkman Klein Center fellows, staff, and associates found on this page.

An illustration of a student looking at his phone while doing homework

Illustrations by Claudia Thomas.

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