Initiative on Combatting Systemic Racism


The 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.


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).


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
  • Policing
  • Sustainability and the Environment
  • Social Media
  • Employment
  • Gaming and Virtual Experience

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.


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.


Past events:


Anti-Eviction Mapping Project seminar

Monday, October 18, 2021

ICSR Workshop series

ICSR Workshops

Spring ’21 semester

AI for Healthcare – Jameel Clinic

Spring ’21 semester

Get involved

Interested in participating? Reach out to

© MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society | 77 Massachusetts Avenue | Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 | 617-253-1764 |