Ford Foundation grant boosts Institute for Information Policy

The Institute for Information Policy at Penn State has been awarded a significant grant to conduct research that will help guide policy decisions and promote dialogue among academics and policymakers.

A $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation will be used by the institute to create a network of scholars who will publish concrete and compelling research, which will be made accessible to policymakers and the public in a timely fashion.

"On numerous occasions in the past few years we have heard the please of senior administration officials for contemporary and relevant research that can guide their communications policy decisions," said Amit Schejter, an associate professor in the College of Communications and co-director of the Institute for Information Policy. "The challenge of making such research available, accessible, useful and timely is the result of the different cultures of academics and policymakers."

"Academic research, while focused on topics of interest to the researchers, tends to be lengthy, opaque, produced gradually and subjected to extended review," said Richard Taylor, the Palmer chair of telecommunication studies and law and co-director of the Institute for Information Policy. "Policymakers need research to be briefly summarized, address current issues in terms they understand and be available in real time. This project is designed to bridge that gap and to stimulate new voices."

Key components of the two-year grand are an expansion of the IIP's existing network of scholars, who will participate in semiannual forums to report on focused policy issues, and the creation of an online, peer-reviewed communication and information policy journal to promptly and widely disseminate the results.

"it has long been a challenge to meet the needs of these different groups, but this grand will allow that to happen," Schejter said. "It will fulfill the needs of policymakers with important and timely information and reward the authors with the type of recognition valued by their institutions for granting promotion and tenure."

A dozen leading and up-and-coming scholars will take part in the first forum conducted as part of the project (focusing on "The Broadband Act of 2011"), which will be conducted Sept. 28-30 in Washington, D.C. Those participants were selected from more than three dozen submissions from around the world.

A second forum is planned for the spring of 2011 and the online journal will be officially launched at that time as well.

The Institute for Information Policy, founded in 1997 and housed in the College of Communications, conducts sponsored research and collaborative programs on the social implications of information technology, with a special emphasis on the potential of information technologies for improving democratic discourse, social responsibility and the quality of life.

Faculty and students associated with the IIP actively participate in national and international dialogues with corporate leaders and policy makers. Researchers associated with the IIP are among the most recognized information policy scholars in the nation because they have published numerous articles, have authored or edited books, have taken part in professional conferences and have been visible in the national policy discourse.

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Last Updated August 25, 2010