Digital Civil Society Lab

Postdoctoral Fellowship

About the fellowship

The following information applies to applications for the 2020-21 cohort of postdoctoral fellows. The application cycle for this cohort will open on September 30, 2019 and will close on January 13, 2020.

The Digital Civil Society Lab brings promising new scholars to Stanford University for 1-2 year appointments as postdoctoral fellows.  

Each fellow will be primarily affiliated with the Digital Civil Society Lab, and potentially cross-affiliated with a department or school at Stanford University depending on the fellow’s specific disciplinary focus.  

The annual fellowship stipend is $67,000, plus the standard benefits that postdoctoral fellows at Stanford University receive, including health insurance and travel funds. The fellowship program falls under U.S. Immigration J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa activities. 

The start date of the fellowship will be September 2020, unless otherwise agreed. To assume a postdoctoral fellowship, scholars must have a PhD in hand by July 1, 2020. We cannot consider applications from scholars who earned a PhD earlier than May 1, 2018.  

We encourage applications from candidates representing a broad range of disciplines including the social sciences, humanities, law, computer science and engineering.  

About the Digital Civil Society Lab

The Digital Civil Society Lab (DCSL) envisions an independent civil society that thrives in the digital age through the safe, ethical and effective use of private digital resources for public benefit.  

The digital age has transformed civil society participation and organization, and it has presented new challenges and threats. Our dependencies on digital software and infrastructure require new insights into how these digital systems work and how an independent civil society can engage themsafely, ethically and effectively for mission. 

The Digital Civil Society Lab aims to understand how digital technologies have transformed civil society, and shape these transformations by engaging research, practitioner and policy communities across the interconnected domains that support a thriving and independent civil society in the digital age: 

  • Technology: software and hardware designed for the values and interest of civil society actors  
  • Organizations: structures and practices that align with civil society missions and protect institutional independence from markets or governments 
  • Policy: legal practices and regulatory frames that protect the building blocks of civil society, including free association, speech, and privacy  
  • Norms: social norms and practices that promote safe and ethical data collection, generation and use, and that support the critical role of civil society in democracies 

The Digital Civil Society Lab is investigating key research themes which include: 

  • The key dimensions of digital infrastructure and data and how they influence the role of independent civil society in democracies;  
  • Understanding, creating, and expanding access to software, hardware and digital practices that align with the values of civil society in democracies;  
  • The nature of digital data donations and/or the governance mechanisms, enterprise forms, or legal constructs that such donations require;  
  • Understanding interactions between global digital networks, digital activism, and traditional and emergent forms of association in civil society.

The Lab’s research draws from the humanities, social sciences, engineering, computer science and the law to understand and advance the principles of civil society and democracies in the digital age.  

Please note: Postdoctoral fellows at DCSL are expected to participate fully in a biweekly seminar series at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and are expected to contribute to teaching the Digital Civil Society seminar in partnership with other DCSL faculty, scholars and postdocs.

 DCSL is an initiative of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) and is led by Lucy Bernholz, senior research scholar at Stanford PACS, and Rob Reich, professor of Political Science and faculty co-director of Stanford PACS.  

 For a sense of the scholarship that DCSL supports, see: 

 Questions about the Digital Civil Society Lab should be directed to Heather Noelle Robinson at 


  • September 30, 2019: Application period opens
  • January 13, 2020: Application period closes
  • February, 2020: Interviews with shortlisted candidates
  • March, 2020: Offers extended to finalist(s

How to apply

To be considered for a postdoctoral fellowship with the Digital Civil Society Lab, submit an application via the online application portal. 

 Applicants will be asked to include the following: 

  • Cover letter detailing the reasons for the applicant’s interest in the fellowship; 
  • Curriculum Vitae; 
  • Fellowship proposal detailing the research that the applicant would undertake while at Stanford, and how it fits within the research agenda of the specific initiative to which the applicant is applying. In this section, please disclose if you have additional funding arrangements. 
  • Writing sample consisting of either a dissertation chapter or a recent published paper. There are no specific page length or formatting requirements for this sample; 
  • Graduate transcript with proof that the applicant has completed all the requirements for the PhD, or a letter from their PhD advisor stating when they will do so; 
  • Two (or more) Letters of Recommendation. These should be submitted via the application portal.  

Stanford University is an affirmative action and equal opportunity employer, committed to increasing the diversity of its workforce. It welcomes applications from women, members of minority groups, veterans, persons with disabilities, and others who would bring additional dimensions to the university’s research and teaching mission 

Related Links