ESRC Digital Good Network

What we do

Our vision

Digital technologies are not always good for societies. Across research, policy, industry and civil society, the question of how to build good digital societies needs urgent attention.

Remember to imagine and craft the worlds you cannot live without, just as you dismantle the ones you cannot live within

Ruha Benjamin,
Captivating Technology (Duke University Press, 2019)

Societies want digital technologies to work for the social good, but in research, policy and civil society, there has been far more attention to digital harms than to the digital good. To ensure that digital technologies have good outcomes for people and societies, we need to turn our attention to what the digital good should look like and how it can be achieved.

To limit future harms and help ensure that digital technologies have positive outcomes, we seek to deliver an interdisciplinary, social science-led research programme centred on the urgent, neglected question of what the digital good should look like and how it can be achieved.

We are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, part of United Kingdom Research and Innovation, UKRI).

About us

The ESRC Digital Good Network is building a research community focused on what a good digital society should look like and how we get there.

The network will:

  • bring disciplines and sectors together
  • support and fund interdisciplinary research, internships, fellowships
  • provide training, including a summer school
  • host events (eg talks, exhibitions, workshops, sprints)
  • engage policy, industry, practitioners, communities and civil society.

The network was launched in November 2022 with £4 million investment from the Economic and Social Research Council and £1 million from collaborating organisations.

Societal Challenges

The Digital Good Network funds research projects, fellowships and internships that explore three societal challenges that we see as crucial to ensuring that digital technologies benefit people and societies:

  • Equity:

    How can we make sure digital technologies contribute towards a more equitable society?

  • Sustainability:

    How can we make the digital future more sustainable?

  • Resilience:

    How can the digital world be shaped to ensure that digital technologies enhance wellbeing in the face of challenges such as pandemics, political conflicts, natural disasters, misinformation, and online hate?

Digital Good Index

The network will produce a Digital Good Index, which can be used to evaluate digital innovations to ensure good societal outcomes. The index will reflect the multiple facets of the digital good, including whether, how, when, where and for whom digital technologies might be considered good. The Digital Good Index will build on network research and will be iterated annually.

Our opportunities

Between 2023 and 2027, we will fund and support:

  • Research projects, through the Digital Good Research Fund
    Small-scale, pilot and scoping projects that respond to annual, thematic calls and contribute to the Digital Good Index. Through the Digital Good Research Fund we will fund multiple projects in the range of £20,000 (£16,000 at 80% fEC) to a maximum of £50,000 (£40,000 at 80% fEC).
  • Internships for PhD students
    Internship schemes that give postgraduate research students experience of working with interdisciplinary teams for short periods of time (approximately three months). We will fund around 20 internships over the five-year period.
  • Fellowships
    Programmes of activity which engage applicants in activities in environments outside their usual disciplinary or sector homes. We will fund up to 15 fellowships of various types and duration. Amounts of funding will vary based on proposed activities.
  • Training
    Including a summer school for PhD students.