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About the Stanford Cyber Initiative

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The Stanford Cyber Initiative is a central hub on campus for policy-relevant research across disciplines to address the opportunities and challenges raised by cyber technologies in our social systems.

Read our 2016 Annual Report here:  Cyber Initiative 2016 Year End Report.pdf

The Stanford Cyber Initiative (the Initiative) was created in late 2014 with a $15 million grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (Hewlett).  In making this grant, and similar ones to Berkeley and MIT, Hewlett’s goal is to help develop a multidisciplinary cybersecurity field capable of developing thoughtful, long-term solutions to the wide range of complex interdependent technical, social and public policy problems posed by the Internet. Hewlett challenged Stanford to help create and define this new field of research and policy. Stanford has organized its Initiative around the study of “cyber-social systems,” in which cyber-technologies interact with existing social systems.  As described in greater length below, social systems comprise the various organizations of human activity, including different markets, political arenas, and other communities.  Cyber technologies encompass networked digital technologies – notably, the internet – and extend, for instance, to infrastructure control systems and wireless biomedical devices.  Thus, cyber-social systems, both large and small, use embedded digital structures and devices to facilitate, enhance and scale human endeavors. 

The study of cyber-social systems will yield a superior policy framework to address immediate cyber-threats and challenges, enhance the social gains from technical innovation and head off longer-term emergent flaws.  In pursuing these goals, the Stanford Cyber Initiative will promote expansive research and discussion that combine the University’s expertise in both technology and various social systems.  Initially, we will focus on the following four social systems: consumer markets, employment and the workplace, medicine and health care, and democracy and politics.  In addition, Stanford has existing hubs that are investigating three other cyber-social systems, with which the Initiative will collaborate: education (through the office of the Vice-Provost of Teaching and Learning), international security (through the Center for International Security and Cooperation), and research (through, for example, the Stanford Data Science Initiative, Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, or the Center for Biomedical Informatics Research).

The Stanford Cyber Initiative has worked closely with the Hewlett Foundation, the wider Stanford community and the other two institutions that received funding from the Hewlett Foundation (Berkeley and MIT) to establish a strong foundation from which the Initiative will thrive. Our foundational work has included developing priorities under the guidance of a multidisciplinary committee, beginning to evaluate opportunities for research awards, involving students and engaging experts from industry and government. 

Dan Boneh, the Motwani Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and Co-Director of the Stanford Computer Security Lab, and Michael McFaul, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute, are the faculty directors of the Initiative. They are advised by a multidisciplinary committee consisting of the following faculty members: Ramesh Johari (MS&E, CS, and EE); Margaret Levi (Political Science and CASBS); Herb Lin (CISAC and Hoover); Rob MacCoun (Law and FSI); John Mitchell (CS and EE); Ian Morris (Classics and History); Jennifer Pan (Communication); Nate Persily (Law); George Triantis (Law); Keith Winstein (CS); and Amy Zegart (CISAC and Hoover). Roberta Katz, the Associate Vice-President for Strategic Planning in the Office of the President at Stanford is the strategic advisor to the Initiative. John Mitchell, the Mary and Gordon Crary Family Professor of Computer Science and the Vice Provost for Online Learning, serves as senior technical advisor. Dr. Katz and Justice Cuellar of the California Supreme Court (and formerly Stanley Morrison Professor of Law at Stanford) spearheaded the planning for the Initiative in 2014. Initiative operations are led by Allison Berke, Executive Director of the Cyber Initiative.