About Us

Our Mission

In 2010, Lawrence Lessig launched the Edmond J. Safra Research Lab, a major initiative designed to address fundamental problems of ethics in a way that is of practical benefit to institutions of government and society around the world. As its first undertaking, the Lab is tackling the problem of institutional corruption.

Institutional corruption: the consequence of an influence within an economy of influence that illegitimately weakens the effectiveness of an institution especially by weakening the public trust of the institution.

Over a five year period, a wide range of important institutions will be studied, with the ultimate goal of producing a set of practical tools that might be used both to understand the dynamic of institutional corruption and to respond to it. A new structure of fellowships supports the project and draws scholars and researchers from a wide range of disciplines across academia, industry, and government. Collaborative research that integrates the work of different fields is a strong component of the Lab's work.

Read a full description of the Lab's research project and operational plan.

Watch the Lab's introductory lecture, given by Professor Lessig in the fall of 2009, which lays out the framework for the Lab's current project on institutional corruption.

The Edmond J. Safra Research Lab is made possible, in part, by the generous support of Mrs. Lily Safra. Read about her extraordinary gift.

Lawrence Lessig, Director


Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school’s Center for Internet and Society, and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.

Lessig serves on the Boards of Creative Commons, AXA Research Fund and iCommons.org, and on the Advisory Boards of the Sunlight Foundation, the Better Future Project, and Democracy Café. He is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Association, and has received numerous awards, including the Free Software Foundation's Freedom Award, Fastcase 50 Award and being named one of Scientific American's Top 50 Visionaries.

Professor Lessig earned a BA in economics and a BS in management from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it | Ph 617.496.1124

Mark Somos, Research Director


Mark Somos is the research director at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. He holds a BA in History and an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History from Cambridge, an AM in Government and Social Policy and a PhD in Political Science from Harvard, an LLM in International Security and Law from Sussex, and a PhD in Law from Leiden. Before returning to Harvard, Mark was a Leverhulme Fellow at Sussex, and a Rechtskulturen Fellow sponsored by the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin at Humboldt University Law School.

Skeptical of the strict separation of theory from practice, Mark has been lucky to be able to combine political consultancy with academia for over twenty years. He established and ran a Political Risk Forecasting Division in Budapest, and served as Managing Director to a global consultancy firm based in Mayfair, London. He published extensively on international law, secularisation, migration, political ethics and civil society, and has taught courses at Harvard and Sussex on subjects ranging from American political thought through the Crusades to the history of democracy and human rights. His first book, Secularisation and the Leiden Circle, was published by Brill in 2011.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it | Ph 617.496.1496