Initiative on Combatting Systemic Racism

About

The Research Initiative on Combatting Systemic Racism aims to launch and coordinate cross-disciplinary research on how to identify and overcome racially discriminatory processes across a range of American institutions and policy domains. The effort brings together faculty and researchers from all five schools and the Schwarzman College of Computing at MIT, as well as partner institutions. Building on the extensive social science literature on systemic racism, our focus is to use big data to develop and harness computational tools that can help effect structural and normative change towards racial equity.

Organizers

Fotini Christia

Director, SSRC
Associate Director, IDSS
Ford International Professor in the Social Sciences
Chair, PhD Program in SES

Munther Dahleh

Munther Dahleh

Director, IDSS
William A. Coolidge Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Steering Committee

The ICSR steering committee comprises faculty members from across MIT’s five schools. Members advise on the activities of the initiative and help disseminate findings beyond MIT. Chancellor Melissa Nobles (Professor of Political Science) has agreed to head this committee. The other members are: Emery Brown (BCS), D. Fox Harrell (CMS), Christine Ortiz (DMSE), Ray Reagans (Sloan), Larry Sass (Architecture) and Collin Stultz (EECS).

Research

Existing research has shown racial discrimination and systemic inequity across essentially all sectors of society. While we recognize that these sectors are often highly interrelated, research under the initiative will be organized into multiple ‘verticals’ including the following:

  • Healthcare
  • Housing
  • Antiracism, Games, and Immersive Media
  • Policing
  • Social Media
  • Sustainability and the Environment
  • Employment

Additional verticals will be added in the future as the initiative grows.

Foundational to this work will be the creation of a data lake of observations from a wide array of U.S. institutions where systemic racism is known to or has the potential to affect decision-making and lead to inequitable policies, services and other outcomes based on race. This repository of data will provide a platform for the computational research conducted, to improve on scholarship and policy proposals addressing systemic racism.

In addition, we will establish connections and directly collaborate with URM researchers and students. We will also connect with community organizations in minority neighborhoods that often bear the brunt of the direct and indirect effects of systemic racism, as well as with local government offices that work to address inequity in service provision in these communities to see how our research can help inform relevant policy decisions.

Project Teams

Project teams will bring together researchers with expertise in causal inference and mechanism design, domain experts in various aspects of race, and humanists and social scientists with expertise in collective human and institutional behavior particularly in relation to racial issues.

Seed Funds

The IDSS/SSRC Combatting Systemic Racism Seed Fund Program supports innovative, early-stage cross-disciplinary research projects with a focus on combatting systemic racism. Through these grants, IDSS and SSRC seek to encourage researchers from across MIT to collaborate in bringing together new ideas from information and decision systems; data sciences and statistics; and the social sciences to identify and overcome racially discriminatory processes and outcomes across a range of U.S. institutions and policy domains.

News

Researching social issues: Savannah Gregory on being an MSRP intern at IDSS

Savannah Gregory MSRP

Savannah Gregory joined the Housing team as an intern through the MIT Summer Research Program. The program seeks to prepare underrepresented students (minorities, women in STEM, or students with low socioeconomic status) for doctoral education.

‘Fair’ AI could help redress bias against Black US homebuyers

The Housing vertical team discusses how AI could guide reparations programmes created to redress decades of US housing discrimination against Black homebuyers.

Artificial intelligence predicts patients’ race from their medical images

The study is co-led by Healthcare vertical lead Marzyeh Ghassemi, who also works on research led by SES student Hammaad Adam showing that models can identify race from clinical notes stripped of explicit race indicators.

How AI can help combat systemic racism

MLK Visiting Professor S. Craig Watkins looks beyond algorithm bias to an AI future where models more effectively deal with systemic inequality.

Racial equity and data science

Professor Fotini Christia introduces a new MIT-wide effort to address systemic racism with social science and computation, launched by IDSS.

ICSR news: student research on systemic racism at IDSS

Protest with carboard sign that says End Systemic Racism

How MIT students are contributing to the new IDSS Research Initiative on Combatting Systemic Racism.

The downside of machine learning in health care

Assistant Professor Marzyeh Ghassemi explores how hidden biases in medical data could compromise artificial intelligence approaches.

S. Craig Watkins addresses Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Racial Justice at TEDxMIT

Photos of the event speakers

In this TEDxMIT talk, MIT Visiting Professor S. Craig Watkins addresses one of the fundamental challenges in the AI Ethics debate: computational models that discriminate against marginalized populations.

MIT welcomes nine MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars for 2021-22

S. Craig Watkins

S. Craig Watkins, an internationally recognized expert in media and a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, will join MIT’s IDSS to assist in researching the role of big data in enabling deep structural changes with regard to systemic racism.

Events

See upcoming and past ICSR events.

Sponsors

Get involved

Interested in participating? Reach out to icsr@mit.edu.


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