A New Model for Industry-Academic Partnerships

Working Paper by Gary King and Nathaniel Persily: “The mission of the academic social sciences is to understand and ameliorate society’s greatest challenges. The data held by private companies holds vast potential to further this mission. Yet, because of its interaction with highly politicized issues, customer privacy, proprietary content, and differing goals of firms and academics, these data are often inaccessible to university researchers.

We propose here a new model for industry-academic partnerships that addresses these problems via a novel organizational structure: Respected scholars form a commission which, as a trusted third party, receives access to all relevant firm information and systems, and then recruits independent academics to do research in specific areas following standard peer review protocols organized and funded by nonprofit foundations.

We also report on a partnership we helped forge under this model to make data available about the extremely visible and highly politicized issues surrounding the impact of social media on elections and democracy. In our partnership, Facebook will provide privacy-preserving data and access; seven major politically and substantively diverse nonprofit foundations will fund the research; and the Social Science Research Council will oversee the peer review process for funding and data access….(More)”.