May 29, 2024

By Brandi Geurkink

In just a couple of weeks, the Coalition will host our first Independent Tech Researchers’ Summit. The Summit will be a virtual space where, over two days, CITR members will deepen connections, share knowledge, and begin to build essential network infrastructure to support the community of people who research, investigate, and report on technology’s impacts on society.

We created the Coalition for Independent Technology Research almost two years ago because independent technology research was becoming riskier for academics, journalists, and civil society researchers to undertake. Tech companies sent threatening legal letters to researchers, shut down their accounts, and funded PR campaigns to disparage their reputationsAt the same time, we knew that independent researchers could help policymakers around the world who were looking to regulate technology companies and help the public understand technology’s impact on our lives and our societies. 

The founding organisers of the Coalition spent the early days in consultation with our communities to learn what barriers and challenges they faced in their work, and what was needed to overcome them. We realised that in order for the independent technology research community to hold together and create change, we needed a sustained effort that would transcend institutional and international boundaries—bringing together academics, civil society researchers, journalists, community scientists and others—to stand in solidarity with one another when we faced attacks, and to advocate for better conditions to enable our work.

The Coalition for Independent Technology Research launched in October 2022 with just under 50 members, almost all of whom were based in the United States. Over the last 18 months, we’ve grown into a Coalition of almost 400 individual researchers and more than 50 research organisations spanning nearly every continent of the world. Together with our members, we’ve launched campaigns and mutual aid efforts that supported hundreds of researchers who, almost overnight, were shut off from accessing critical social media data. We’ve filed lawsuits and amicus briefs challenging policies that would make it harder for researchers to do their essential work. And critically, we’ve attracted the attention of philanthropic organisations who have partnered with us to sustain and grow this work over time.

Since I shifted from being on the Board of Directors into my role as the inaugural Executive Director of the Coalition in January, I’ve been engaging with Coalition members to better understand their lived experiences and take stock of the most pressing needs facing independent researchers around the world. I’ve also looked outward to identify areas where the technology industry still dominates conversations about its role in society, and where ample opportunities exist for truly independent expert voices to enter the chat.

The Independent Tech Researchers’ Summit is a space where we’ll start to have these conversations in a larger setting, with more of us in the (virtual) room. Ultimately, over time, the Coalition will develop shared strategies for increasing the influence and ability of independent researchers to provide trustworthy expertise to the public in key debates about technology. To get there, we need to unpack, together, the challenges that we face and collectively imagine what it will take to overcome them. 

Our conversations will shape and fundamentally inform the foundation of our Coalition’s work, and I’m both honoured and excited to bring the community together at such an important time. I’m personally looking forward to discussions about Coalition members’ needs and creative brainstorming about new initiatives that Coalition members can co-create together.

The Independent Tech Researchers’ Summit is open to Coalition members only, but we welcome those who are interested in our work and eligible to join to apply for membership in the Coalition. Membership is open to academics, journalists, civil society researchers, and community scientists who engage in or support independent research focused on the impact of technology on society. We welcome and are committed to supporting research by, individuals as diverse as the societies we share.

To join the Coalition, please go here.