Doctoral Candidate Receives Ford Foundation Research Funding

The Ford and Sloan Foundations recently announced that they will award $1.3 million to support ten research projects focused on the production of digital infrastructure. Out of 240 submissions, a project led by Kaylea Champion (a second year MA/PhD student in the Department of Communication) was selected as the one of the ten honorees.

Champion will receive about $140,000 from the Ford Foundation to continue researching how society can “measure, model, and reduce underproduction in open-source software infrastructure projects.” According to Champion, “‘underproduction’ (mismatches between the supply and demand of quality software and volunteer labor)’ is a critical issue in open source software infrastructure. “Production gaps represent areas of risk to the stability and security of digital infrastructure, but are currently rarely visible until it is too late,” she posits. Through her ongoing research, Champion asks, “how can we measure underproduction before it leads to major failures, and how can we model the causes of underproduction to help us predict and reduce it?”

Champion’s award-winning research is an extension of her ongoing MA thesis on Wikipedia, says Professor Benjamin Mako Hill.  “It will involve testing theories and extending methods that she’s built as part of her MA thesis in a new empirical context.” Champion will work closely with Dr. Hill, who serves as the project’s Principal Investigator. Dr. Morten Warncke-Wang (Data Analyst at the Wikimedia Foundation), and Dr. Aaron Shaw (Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern), will also assist in Champion’s research.

Both Champion and Dr. Hill will fly to New York City during the first week of February for an official celebration of all the grantees.