Lab Fellowships and Projects

The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University invites scholars, practitioners, innovators and others committed to understanding and remedying institutional corruption to submit proposals to join our community.


In 2010, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics led by director Lawrence Lessig launched a five-year research project to study the causes and consequences of institutional corruption. In 2014-15, the Edmond J. Safra Research Lab will enter the fifth and final year of this project.

We are concerned with widespread or systematic practices that undermine the integrity of an institution, or public trust in an institution. Unlike more frequently studied examples of individual corruption (such as bribery), institutional corruption tends to involve practices that are legal, but nonetheless detrimental to an institution's purposes. We accept a broad definition of "institutions," which can encompass public and private organizations and professions, including medicine, government, academia, law, regulatory agencies, and business.


The aim of the Lab is to study institutional corruption through both empirical and normative approaches. From a normative perspective it is important to establish what an institution's purposes ought to be and to articulate realistic expectations about how an institution should perform. Only in light of these normative standards does the diagnosis of corruption make sense. From an empirical perspective, it is important to document institutional failures and understand the root causes of such failure. Research projects that the Lab supports generally engage in both normative reflection and empirical analysis.

To learn more about the Lab's work, watch an introductory lecture by Professor Lawrence Lessig, read more about the work of the fellows, our blog, our Working Paper series, and our annual reports.


The cross-disciplinary format of the Lab is designed to foster an innovative research environment in which Fellows are encouraged to weave their ideas into a broader framework, while also being a resource for each other. Lab Fellows vary based on methodological approach and topic of focus. Past fellows have included postdoctoral fellows, investigative journalists, professors, doctors, students, writers, and technologists. Their projects focus on a variety of institutions, including Congress, academia, the EPA, the FDA, and the pharmaceutical industry (among many others) on topics ranging from campaign finance reform to conflicts of interest to data monitoring systems in open government. Research from the Lab is conducted with real-world applications in mind. In this final year, the Lab plans to release databases, guidelines, and other tools to the public that work towards solving the problem of institutional corruption in a variety of contexts.

The deadline date for receipt of applications for fellowships and projects beginning September 2014 is January 1, 2014

A broad range of researchers, scholars and professionals are invited to submit proposals to the Lab, either to become fellows, or to propose joint or collaborative research projects. The Lab accepts a number of fellows every year who are engaged in research and practice addressing institutional corruption. Applicants wishing to join the Lab should submit a proposal describing the research or project they will complete, and how that research relates to the work of the Lab. Proposals may be for joint or individual projects, and their term may fall short of or extend beyond the fellowship year (normally September through June). Applications in the past have generally been made for one or two academic years. Faculty members are invited to propose projects that they would direct but that would be executed at the Lab.

Research applicants may be from the fields of law, medicine, economics, psychology, sociology, business, public policy, though those from other disciplinary homes will also be considered. Practice applicants may come from industry, government, or the non-profit sector.

In this final year of the Lab's project, we will give special preference to work that suggests the means for remedying institutional corruption. We have a particular interest in projects that translate scholarship into concrete proposals and tools for reform.

Projects not directly contributing to the mission of the Lab's work on institutional corruption will not be considered. 

The Center typically accepts both full-time residential fellows and part-time non-residential fellows. In addition, the Lab funds outside projects that address institutional corruption. As a part of the Lab community, residential fellows will spend a majority of their time working on research projects, while also benefiting from being part of a multidisciplinary and highly-interactive group of fellows. Fellows primarily engage through a weekly Lab seminar that enables them to workshop their own projects, while also building a collaborative framework to address institutional corruption.

We welcome applications from talented scholars and practitioners at any stage of their career. Applicants will be judged on the quality of their achievements in their field of specialization or industry, and the probable impact of their proposed research and its relevance to the purposes of the Lab. Tenured and untenured faculty are invited to participate, so long as their work during the fellowship is primarily directed towards the Lab project. Postdoctoral applications are also eagerly encouraged, as well as proposals from researchers in industry or government seeking sabbatical time to pursue research directly relevant to the project, and others from data-driven fields such as designers, programmers, and statisticians (see Applied Data Fellowship). For postdoctoral researchers, the Lab is particularly interested in applicants who apply to work under the direct supervision of a Harvard-affiliated faculty member during their fellowship year.

Postdoctoral residential fellows will be paid according to a salary structure that is based on number of years of postdoctoral experience. Faculty members who will spend their sabbatical year at the Center will be eligible to receive up to one-half of their academic year salary (not exceeding a maximum stipend set each fall) for the fellowship period. Their home institution is expected to provide at least half the salary plus all benefits. Overseas fellows and those not on an academic track are eligible for stipends depending on circumstance. All fellowship applicants are expected to report pending or received funding from other sources for the same or a similar project. If multiple awards are received, an equitable arrangement will be made among the funding agents. Awards for projects will be determined dependant upon the scope of the project, and potential impact.

Applicants who have obtained funding through other means, such as an outside grant or award, a home institution, or other forms of scholarship will also be considered.

Applicants are required to submit a budget detailing the practical and administrative costs of their research project. The main purpose of a budget is to outline what it will cost to complete the project outlined in your proposal. More information on budget guidelines is available here.

How to apply

To apply, submit the following application materials using this online application form*. You must also arrange for no more than two letters of reference to be sent on your behalf directly from the referrer to the Research Director via email to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Required application materials:

  • 1 page letter describing your interest in the Lab and institutional corruption
  • 3-7 page research proposal for the project you would undertake
  • Budget
  • C.V.

The above materials must be in a single, searchable PDF (maximum accepted file size is 16MB).

Only two letters of reference will be considered; any additional letters sent will not be accepted. Applications or letters of recommendation received after the January 1st deadline (e.g. January 2 or later) will not be considered.

Please feel free to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it us with any questions.

*Note that emailed applications will not be accepted. You must use the form. Our email address is provided to respond to questions and accept reference letters only.

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Applied Data Fellowship (residential)

From the start, research at the Lab has been designed and conducted with real-world applications in mind. In 2014-15, as the Lab project comes to the end of its five-year life, our aim is to release tools (e.g. databases, guidelines, applications, etc.) to the public and to policy-makers that work toward solving problems of institutional corruption in a variety of contexts. But we need help! The Applied Data Fellow will be critical  in helping to translate the research of the Lab into useful tools by pursuing original and independent research to architect the Lab's real-world impact on institutional corruption.

In addition to original research, the Applied Data Fellow will maintain an ongoing dialogue with the Lab Fellows, whose academic and journalistic projects can be translated to and integrated in an inventive range of data-driven tools to reveal, correct, or prevent institutional corruption. Such tools include publicly-accessible databases on conflicts of interest and on money's corrupting influence in government, healthcare, academia, and various professions; high-impact websites and ingenious applications to check and report on perceived and real institutional corruption in these fields; and educational, training and social media tools for raising awareness of both problems and solutions surrounding institutional corruption. Learn about our past and current research projects here.

The Applied Data Fellow will be salaried and benefits eligible, and will be housed at the Center. While highly competitive, this Fellowship defies a one-size-fits-all description. Researchers, scholars, and professionals from a broad variety of backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Comprehensive quantitative problem-solving, coding, data integration/visualization, and website development are among the relevant skills, alongside passion, independence, collegiality, and both the commitment and ability to see projects through to completion.

To apply, see "How to Apply" above.

Israeli Lab Fellowship (residential)

Every year we will devote one residential Lab fellowship position to an Israeli-born scholar or professional. The Israeli Fellow must be from the State of Israel, residing within Israel at the time of selection, and he/she should be affiliated with an Israeli university, college, or research institute. All of the above requirements and matters of eligibility are applicable, and applicants should follow the application procedures detailed above.

This fellowship position was established in 2010 and made possible by a generous donation from Mrs. Lily Safra, whose wish it is to promote and expand the study of ethics in the State of Israel.

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Network Fellowships (non-residential)

The Network Fellowship program aims to connect a cross-disciplinary group of scholars and practitioners around the world who are currently working independently on issues of institutional corruption as academic research projects or applied within their organizations. The purpose of the network is to connect these researchers and practitioners with each other to inspire new works of scholarship, and applications that are designed to solve problems of institutional corruption.

The Network Fellowship Program is a one year, non-residential position. Network Fellows are welcome to visit the Center's offices in Cambridge, MA during the academic year to meet with other Fellows, present their work to each other, and brainstorm new ideas. Network Fellows residing in Cambridge will be invited to the Lab's weekly seminar. Network Fellows residing elsewhere will be connected to others Fellows throughout the year via a number of online channels. In most cases, Network Fellows are not funded by the Center, however a small amount of funding could be made available to execute a specific project related to institutional corruption. During their tenure in the program, Network Fellows will have the title "Edmond J. Safra Network Fellow," at Harvard University. The Center will profile the Network Fellows and their relevant projects on its website.

Network Fellows will be asked to contribute to the Lab's online initiatives (e.g. writing blog posts, contributing to an online video library, etc.).

Applicants wishing to join the Network should submit a proposal describing the research or project they are currently working on, and how that research relates to the work of the Lab. The Lab would be particularly enthusiastic to receive proposals addressing issues such as conflicts of interest, public trust of institutions, and institutional discrimination from either a research perspective, or from a practice perspective offering tools that address these topics.

Application procedures can be found above under "How to Apply." Letters of reference and a budget are NOT required for this fellowship program.

Please direct inquiries to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 617.495.1336.

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Research Assistants

We have no openings at this time.


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