Public Interest Technology

UC Berkeley is a charter member of the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN), a partnership of 48 colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology and fostering a new generation of civic-minded technologists who will design, build, and govern new technologies in ways that advance the public interest. The Ford, New America, and Hewlett Foundations, among others, have supported the PIT-UN initiative.

To promote greater understanding of core ethical, political and societal dimensions of technological and social change requires collaborations among researchers and educators in a wide range of fields, including computing and data science, humanities, social sciences, public policy, and law. Greater integration of these intellectual communities is essential if society is to effectively develop and harness technological advances to support core social values, and minimize the risks posed by anticipated and unforeseen consequences.

Many campus departments and centers support public interest technology research and teaching, as part of their broader mission and in focused ways: 

College of Computing, Data Science, and Society initiatives

The following initiatives are part of the College of Computing, Data Science, and Society:

Four people standing and sitting around a computer screen

Effective Programming, Interaction, and Computation with Data (EPIC Data) Lab

Effective Programming, Interaction, and Computation with Data (EPIC Data) Lab is a project to improve the usability of big datasets and create new computing tools that will help defense attorneys, criminal justice workers, and others more easily engage in data-intensive research into police misconduct, judicial decision-making, and related issues.

UC Berkeley's Campanile in the background with yellow ginkgo leaves in the foreground.

Berkeley Computational Social Science Training Program

Berkeley Computational Social Science Training Program is a two-year multi-disciplinary training program in advanced data analytics for predoctoral students in the social and behavioral sciences.

Campus-wide Initiatives

Center for Human Compatible AI is a multi-institution research group aimed at developing the conceptual and technical wherewithal to reorient the general thrust of AI research towards provably beneficial systems. 

Kavli Center for Ethics, Science, and the Public provides an inclusive, democratic, and multidisciplinary framework for understanding the ethical implications of science and technology, guiding the development of policy concerning anticipated and actual scientific advances, and helping to ensure that they are answerable to fundamental human interests.

Center for Effective Global Action is a hub for research on global development to identify and test innovations designed to reduce poverty and promote development. 

Algorithmic Fairness & Opacity Working Group is an interdisciplinary group of UC Berkeley faculty, postdocs, and graduate students who are developing new ideas, research directions, and policy recommendations around issues of fairness, transparency, interpretability, and accountability in algorithms and algorithm-based systems.

Center for Responsible, Decentralized Intelligence is a multi-disciplinary campus-wide initiative, focusing on advancing the science, technology and education of decentralization and empowering a responsible digital economy. 

Center for Health Technology promotes the efficiency and effectiveness of health care through research and education on the development, insurance coverage, payment, and appropriate use of medical technologies.

Center for Long Term Cybersecurity addresses key questions that will shape the future of secure computing systems. Relevant programs include: 

AI Policy Hub

- AI Security Initiative 

- Citizen Clinic 

Center for Technology, Society & Policy is a multidisciplinary research and design/build center focusing on emergent social and policy issues arising from the development and adoption of technology.

Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and Banatao Institute

Berkeley is one of four campuses that hosts the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute (CITRIS). CITRIS leverages the research strengths of University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz to facilitate interdisciplinary work among hundreds of UC faculty members, students, corporate partners, and international institutions.

CITRIS Policy Lab is a forum for topical issues such as personal data privacy, digital access equity, AI bias, and the influence of social media on democracy. It engages with private and public sector policymakers through consultation, high-level events, and publication of peer-reviewed research articles, op-eds, and reports. 

CITRIS Tech for Social Good Program provides funding support to undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students in interdisciplinary research teams to develop hardware, software, events or programs that support healthy, sustainable, connected, and equitable livelihoods in the United States and abroad.

CITRIS Invention Lab provides expertise, community knowledge, tools, and materials to support students, faculty, staff, and individual researchers in moving their public interest technology from idea to prototype.

CITRIS Workforce Innovation offers select University of California students the opportunity to inform their career decisions through eight-week internships with support by dedicated CITRIS staff, as well as the community of peers in their cohort. 

Tech Policy Initiative provides students with the diverse skills necessary to understand and address complex tech policy challenges with an emphasis on providing real-world experiences and valuable employment skills related to tech policy.

Our Better Web is an interdisciplinary, independent initiative at UC Berkeley that brings together leadership from the Schools of Information, Journalism, Law, and Public Policy with the CITRIS Policy Lab and the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society to address the sharp rise of online harms such as disinformation, child safety, and algorithmic bias through research, policy analysis, training, and engagement. 

The Berkeley Law School is home to the following public interest technology activities:

Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic is the leading clinical program in technology law and the public interest, giving students hands-on training on public interest technology issues.

Human Rights Investigations Lab - the first university-based initiative of its kind in the world engaging students from multiple disciplines in real-world open source digital forensic investigations of human rights abuses and potential war crimes. 

Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT) – hosting workshops and conferences that address the most pressing technology law and policy issues of the day, such as the emergent right to repair electronic devices.

The student-led Graduates for Engaged and Extended Scholarship in Computing and Engineering (GEESE) supports a community of graduate students and postdocs interested in working at the intersection between engineering and the social sciences and humanities to prepare themselves to tackle the emerging ethical dilemmas and opportunities for social change presented by new forms of technological disruption.

Goldman School of Public Policy

The Center for Security in Politics supports research, curriculum, and convenings that bring students, academics, and leading political practitioners together to address critical global risks, to translate research and analysis into actionable solutions for policymakers, thought leaders and elected officials, and to train a diverse generation of security professionals for careers in public service.

Portrait of Susan L. Graham and Pamela Samuelson
Liaisons to the Public Interest Technology University Network

Professors Susan L. Graham (Computer Science) and Pamela Samuelson (Law) are the UC Berkeley representatives for PIT-UN.