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Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society Fellowships

January 11, 2019


The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society brings promising new scholars to Stanford University for 1-2 year appointments as postdoctoral fellows.

Currently Stanford PACS is accepting applications for two postdoctoral fellowship opportunities for the 2019-20 academic year:

  • The Project on Democracy and the Internet
  • The Digital Civil Society Lab

Each fellow will be affiliated with the relevant Stanford PACS initiative (either the Digital Civil Society Lab or the Project on Democracy and the Internet) and potentially also with a department or school at Stanford University.

The annual fellowship stipend is $65,000, plus the standard benefits that postdoctoral fellows at Stanford University receive, including health insurance and travel funds. The fellowship program falls under U.S. Immigration J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa activities.

The start date of the fellowship will be September 2019, unless otherwise agreed. To assume a postdoctoral fellowship, scholars must have a PhD in hand by July 1, 2019. We cannot consider applications from scholars who earned a PhD earlier than May 1, 2017.

For both of these fellowships, we encourage applications from candidates representing a broad range of disciplines including the social sciences, humanities, law, computer science and engineering.

  1. Project on Democracy and the Internet

The Project on Democracy and the Internet (PDI) envisions digital technologies supporting rather than subverting democracy by maximizing the benefits and minimizing the threats through changes in policy, technology, and social and ethical technological norms.

Digital technologies are having a profound impact on democracy in the United States and around the world. New communication platforms that give voice to the previously voiceless also empower nefarious actors who seek to undermine democracy, silence journalists and minority groups, manipulate search engines, sow distrust, and more. Concerns about virality, deception, anonymity, echo chambers, and platform information monopolies pose new challenges for democracy in the digital age. Current research to understand these challenges and, on the basis of theory and evidence, craft solutions, remains nascent, fragmented, and incomplete. A strong knowledge base is critical for policy makers, corporate leaders, and technologists to make decisions that protect and promote democracy in the digital age.

The Project on Democracy and the Internet is investigating key research themes which include:

  • Reform options for platforms to combat hate speech, bots, and disinformation.
  • Algorithmic bias
  • Deteriorating health of digital information ecosystems and its effect on democracy and civil rights
  • Changes in the media landscape due to shifts caused by digital innovation.
  • Impact of the internet on election campaigns and voting.

The Project on Democracy and the Internet’s work draws from the social sciences, humanities, engineering, computer science, and the law to understand the challenges digital technologies pose to liberal democracies around the world.

The project is led by Principal Investigators Nathaniel Persily, James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, and Frank Fukuyama, Director of CDDRL and Senior Fellow at FSI, along with the support of PACS Faculty Co-Director and Professor of Political Science, Rob Reich.

PDI is a joint initiative of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) and the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL).

For a sense of the scholarship that PDI supports, see: https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/research/project-on-democracy-and-the-internet/projects/.

2. Digital Civil Society Lab

The Digital Civil Society Lab (DCSL) envisions an independent civil society that thrives in the digital age through the safe, ethical and effective use of private digital resources for public benefit.

The digital age has transformed civil society participation and organization, and it has presented new challenges and threats. Our dependencies on digital software and infrastructure require new insights into how these digital systems work and how an independent civil society can engage them safely, ethically and effectively for mission.

The Digital Civil Society Lab aims to understand how digital technology has transformed civil society and shape these transformations by engaging research, practitioner and policy communities across the interconnected domains that support a thriving and independent civil society in the digital age:

  • Technology: software and hardware designed for the values and interest of civil society actors
  • Organizations: structures and practices that align with civil society missions and protect institutional independence from markets or governments 
  • Policy: legal practices and regulatory frames that protect the building blocks of civil society, including free association, speech, and privacy
  • Norms: social norms and practices that promote safe and ethical data collection, generation and use, and that support the critical role of civil society in democracies

The Digital Civil Society Lab is investigating key research themes which include:

  • The key dimensions of digital infrastructure and data and how they influence the role of independent civil society in democracies;
  • Understanding, creating, and expanding access to software, hardware and digital practices that align with the values of civil society in democracies;
  • The nature of digital data donations and/or the governance mechanisms, enterprise forms, or legal constructs that such donations require;
  • The role of digital infrastructure, data, and connectivity and their influence on relationships between governments, markets, and civil society.

The Lab’s research draws from the humanities, social sciences, engineering, computer science and the law to understand and advance the principles of civil society and democracies in the digital age.

DCSL is an initiative of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) and is led by Lucy Bernholz, senior research scholar at Stanford PACS, and Rob Reich, professor of Political Science and faculty co-director of Stanford PACS.

For a sense of the scholarship that DCSL supports, see: https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/research/digital-civil-society-lab/.


To be considered for a postdoctoral fellowship with either the Project on Democracy and the Internet or with the Digital Civil Society Lab, submit an application via the online application portal.

Applicants will be asked to include the following:

  • Cover letter detailing the reasons for the applicant’s interest in the fellowship;
  • Curriculum Vitae;
  • Fellowship proposal detailing the research that the applicant would undertake while at Stanford, and how it fits within the research agenda of the specific initiative to which the applicant is applying. In this section, please disclose if you have additional funding arrangements.
  • Writing sample consisting of either a dissertation chapter or a recent published paper. There are no specific page length or formatting requirements for this sample;
  • Graduate transcript with proof that the applicant has completed all the requirements for the PhD, or a letter from their PhD advisor stating when they will do so;
  • Two (or more) Letters of Recommendation. These should be submitted via the application portal.


Questions about the Project on Democracy and the Internet should be directed to Eloise Duvillier at eloise@stanford.edu.

Questions about the Digital Civil Society Lab should be directed to Heather Noelle Robinson at hnrbnsn@stanford.edu.