A technology security policy think tank at Georgetown University received a $42 million grant, paving the way for the expansion of its operations and increased opportunities for students to conduct policy research.
The Center for Security and Emerging Technology, a nonpartisan technology and policy research organization at the School of Foreign Service, received the donation from Open Philanthropy, a foundation that distributes grants to organizations focused on science and technology research.
CSET relies on organizations outside the university for its funding, and with this donation, the center will be able to sustain itself through 2025. The donation marks CSET’s third round of funding since it was established in 2019 and brings the center’s total funding to over $100 million.
This grant validates CSET’s hard work over the past three years, according to Dewey Murdick, director of CSET.
“The first funding was basically a risk: Let’s try this. But it’s been working. We’ve actually been impacting how things are going. This second funding is now a validation funding. It’s a huge tangible validation that this hard work and positive policy outcomes and impacts that were starting to accrue is actually a good model,” Murdick said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “This is why this grant is such a big deal right now.”
CSET plans to use much of the donation to fund its main operations, including increasing staffing and research capabilities. By increasing its operational capabilities, CSET will be able to better inform policymakers about emerging technologies, according to Murdick.
“We’ve been given more freedom to explore and find the most important problems that are most relevant to people in Washington, different agencies and Congress,” Murdick said. “We’re able to spend enough time to get insights that are not easily available.”
The most recent donation to CSET is not the first from Open Philanthropy, as the donor organization contributed a $55 million grant to launch the think tank in January 2019. Two separate organizations, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Public Interest Technology University Network, also have contributed to CSET since its founding.
The grant shows donors trust CSET to effectively steer the funds toward meaningful research and make returns on the initial investments made to create the think tank, according to Tessa Baker (COL ’07, GRD ’08), director of operations at CSET.
“I think the fact that Open Philanthropy can trust that when they give their money to Georgetown that CSET will work to achieve the mission that’s stated in the letters of the grant agreement is pretty fundamental to our ability to expand the grant,” Baker said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
Since its founding, CSET has produced over 120 reports on various topics including military artificial intelligence, robotics patents and small data. Over 70 Georgetown student research assistants from the SFS have worked to support these reports, according to Murdick.
The opportunity for students to study the role new technologies are playing in global politics aligns perfectly with the mission of the SFS, according to Joel Hellman, dean of the SFS.
“Since we are the oldest school of international affairs in the United States, we were kind of designed to be thinking about what was driving the changes in the global security landscape,” Hellman said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “We were excited to welcome CSET because it is doing exactly what we think is critical to be thinking about in the future.”
Some of the new reports funded by the recent donation will focus on artificial intelligence, biotechnology and the interplay of intelligence and emerging technologies. The new reports will enable Georgetown students to further engage with CSET, according to Murdick.
The increase in long-term grants provides Georgetown with the potential to inspire students to become involved with technology and security policy research, according to Hellman.
“As the premier school of international affairs in the U.S., it’s really critical for us to have the kind of capacity that CSET brings in order to understand where international affairs is going in the next century,” Hellman said.