Fotini Christia named director of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society

Fotini Christia, the Ford International Professor of Social Sciences in the Department of Political Science, has been named the new director of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), effective July 1.

“Fotini is well-positioned to guide IDSS into the next chapter. With her tenure as the director of the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center and as an associate director of IDSS since 2020, she has actively forged connections between the social sciences, data science, and computation,” says Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing and the Henry Ellis Warren Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “I eagerly anticipate the ways in which she will advance and champion IDSS in alignment with the spirit and mission of the Schwarzman College of Computing.”

“Fotini’s profound expertise as a social scientist and her adept use of data science, computational tools, and novel methodologies to grasp the dynamics of societal evolution across diverse fields, makes her a natural fit to lead IDSS,” says Asu Ozdaglar, deputy dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Christia’s research has focused on issues of conflict and cooperation in the Muslim world, for which she has conducted fieldwork in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, and Yemen, among others. More recently, her research has been directed at examining how to effectively integrate artificial intelligence tools in public policy.

She was appointed the director of the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC) and an associate director of IDSS in October 2020. SSRC, an interdisciplinary center housed within IDSS in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, focuses on the study of high-impact, complex societal challenges that shape our world.

As part of IDSS, she is co-organizer of a cross-disciplinary research effort, the Initiative on Combatting Systemic Racism. Bringing together faculty and researchers from all of MIT’s five schools and the college, the initiative builds on extensive social science literature on systemic racism and uses big data to develop and harness computational tools that can help effect structural and normative change toward racial equity across housing, health care, policing, and social media. Christia is also chair of IDSS’s doctoral program in Social and Engineering Systems.

Christia is the author of “Alliance Formation in Civil War” (Cambridge University Press, 2012), which was awarded the Luebbert Award for Best Book in Comparative Politics, the Lepgold Prize for Best Book in International Relations, and a Distinguished Book Award from the International Studies Association. She is co-editor with Graeme Blair (University of California, Los Angeles) and Jeremy Weinstein (incoming dean at Harvard Kennedy School) of “Crime, Insecurity, and Community Policing: Experiments on Building Trust,” forthcoming in August 2024 with Cambridge University Press.

Her research has also appeared in Science, Nature Human Behavior, Review of Economic Studies, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, NeurIPs, Communications Medicine, IEEE Transactions on Network Science and Engineering, American Political Science Review, and Annual Review of Political Science, among other journals. Her opinion pieces have been published in Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, among other outlets.

A native of Greece, where she grew up in the port city of Salonika, Christia moved to the United States to attend college at Columbia University. She graduated magna cum laude in 2001 with a joint BA in economics–operations research and an MA in international affairs. She joined the MIT faculty in 2008 after receiving her PhD in public policy from Harvard University.

Christia succeeds Noelle Selin, a professor in IDSS and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. Selin has led IDSS as interim director for the 2023-24 academic year since July 2023, following Professor Martin Wainwright.

“I am incredibly grateful to Noelle for serving as interim director this year. Her contributions in this role, as well as her time leading the Technology and Policy Program, have been invaluable. I’m delighted she will remain part of the IDSS community as a faculty member,” says Huttenlocher.

Source: Data Management & Statistic -


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