The ODI Research Fellowship programme is an opportunity for researchers to conduct their work under guidance and with support from the ODI’s team. In this blog post, Head of R&D Olivier Thereaux introduces our two research fellows for 2020, and talks about the future of the programme.

Researching the technology, society, governance and policy aspects of data has been a key facet of the work of the ODI, and we have been able to research a wealth of topics since our creation. Our main R&D programme, since 2017, has generated more than 70 major research outputs on topics ranging from data trusts to anonymisation, from open cities to agent-based modelling, and from standards-building to future-gazing.

Yet at the heart of our ODI culture is our belief that we can not do it all ourselves. Nowhere is that truer than in research, which is why we routinely partner with other researchers, engage with as broad a network as possible in our work, and fund innovative projects and initiatives through stimulus funds. It is also the motivation behind reviving our ODI Research Fellowship programme: an opportunity for researchers – whether they are independent or already working in another research organisation – to join the ODI for a period of time and work with us, building rich ties with the ODI network of academia, industry, governments and civil society.

After a selection process over the summer, I am pleased to announce a first pilot cohort of ODI Research Fellows: our two successful candidates, Janis and Sue, bring with them fascinating areas of inquiry and a fresh new perspective in the ODI team.

Dr Sue Chadwick is a planning solicitor, currently working as a Strategic Planning Advisor with Pinsent Masons LLP with professional experience split between private practice and local government. She has a keen academic interest in the subject – particularly the way that the law is mediated through policy and politics – and has always combined commercial practice with lecturing and research in this area. Her current research looks at the impact of emerging technologies on her specialist area of planning law in three specific areas: digitisation of the planning application process; the impact of artificial intelligence on the development consent regime; and the need for an evolved ethical framework that embraces the implications of both.

Janis Wong is an interdisciplinary PhD researcher in computer science at the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy (CRISP), at the University of St Andrews. Her thesis aims to create a socio-technical data commons framework that helps data subjects protect their personal data under existing data protection and information regulations. More broadly, she is interested in the legal and technological applications in privacy and ethics. During her ODI Research Fellowship, she will be focusing specifically on data protection, privacy, and governance as it relates to online teaching, learning analytics, and educational technology. Due to the pandemic, many academic institutions have started the academic year with fully online teaching models, adapting their existing data protection and data governance policies in short notice to accommodate for the digital classroom. Currently, no sector-wide policies on online learning, lecture capture, or use of teaching platforms exist. Through the fellowship, she hopes to better understand the data protection landscape in the education sector and create a data rights framework that balances the need to ensure that students’ and staff’s data are governed in a privacy-preserving way and delivers online learning effectively.

The work Sue and Janis have started, and their early interactions with the ODI team and network are refreshing and encouraging: we wanted to make sure that the programme worked and truly benefited everyone involved. If the early signs are any indication, we should be able to continue and grow this programme in the future: we will likely run another selection process in December/January, and I look forward to welcoming fellows in 2021 from academia and the research world, but also from industry and government, and from a variety of locations, too.

If you are interested in the research that Janis and Sue are conducting and would like to get in touch with them, or if you would like to discuss the fellowship programme with us – whether as a potential fellow or partner organisation, we would love to hear from you. Contact us at [email protected].