A New Model for Industry–Academic Partnerships
By Gary King, Harvard University, Nathaniel Persily, Stanford University
The mission of the social sciences is to understand and ameliorate society’s greatest challenges. The data held by private companies, collected for different purposes, hold vast potential to further this mission. Yet, because of consumer privacy, trade secrets, proprietary content, and political sensitivities, these datasets are often inaccessible to scholars. We propose a novel organizational model to address these problems. We also report on the first partnership under this model, to study the incendiary issues surrounding the impact of social media on elections and democracy: Facebook provides (privacy-preserving) data access; eight ideologically and substantively diverse charitable foundations provide initial funding; an organization of academics we created, Social Science One, leads the project; and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard and the Social Science Research Council provide logistical help.