(CLOSED) Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) Challenge – Year 3

Sponsor Name: 
Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN)
Description of the Award: 

The Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) is a partnership of colleges and universities committed to educating students who can better apply technical understanding and practice to questions of individual rights, justice, social welfare, and the public good, particularly for those members of our society least well served historically and today by existing systems and policies.

As it nurtures the pipeline of emerging technologists prepared to approach these questions, PIT-UN envisions a future where technology policy actively challenges structural inequalities in power, resources, and access by centering the needs of people and communities, particularly for those historically marginalized. In practice, this means that the traditional gatekeepers of technological advancement and public policy interrogate how they can better identify and work with communities in the development of Public Interest Technology as an ecosystem and elevate these communities as co-creators and leaders.

The goals of the network are to:

  • Connect accredited nonprofit institutions of higher education in the US that seek to take the lead in establishing and defining the field of Public Interest Technology within academia;
  • Spur the development of a strong pipeline of students seeking to pursue careers in Public Interest Technology, broadly defined; taking active measures to ensure that this pipeline is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, ability, gender, and socioeconomic status; and characterized by a sense of inclusion and belonging for students and practitioners;
  • Foster collaborations and connections across the network and to practitioners in the wider ecosystem.

More information regarding Penn State's participation in PIT-UN is available in this PSU News story. Faculty and students interested in learning more about the Penn State PIT Alliance and joining this community of students, scholars and practitioners in PIT should sign up here.

The PIT University Network Challenge
The PIT University Network Challenge seeks to encourage new ideas, foster collaborations, and incentivize resource- and information-sharing among network members. In 2020—PIT-UN’s second year—42 proposals from 28 institutions were awarded a total of $4,404,595 in grant funds.

For its third year, projects addressing any of the priority areas below are welcome.

  1. Educational Offerings
  2. Career Pipeline/Placement
  3. Faculty & Institution Building
  4. Strengthening the PIT University Network

Projects may include such ideas as:

  • Experiential learning opportunities, such as clinics, fellowships, apprenticeships, or internships that give students real-world exposure to the practice of Public Interest Technology.
  • New models of career training, placement, and/or financial support for individuals who seek to pursue careers in the nascent field of Public Interest Technology.
  • Partnerships with nonprofit, private sector, or affinity group partners that demonstrate the real-world application of Public Interest Technology to center community voice in pursuit of solutions for pressing problems, particularly challenges experienced by marginalized communities least well served by existing systems and policies.
  • New models to aid faculty participation in (and recognition for) the research, curriculum development, teaching, and service work that builds Public Interest Technology as an arena of inquiry and training.
  • Platforms or practices to connect educators focused on Public Interest Technology so they may share curricula and strategies for improving Public Interest Technology programs.
  • Projects that aim to identify and pursue the central issues and questions that animate Public Interest Technology as a field of study.

The PIT-UN Challenge will prioritize projects that center the needs of communities who have historically been denied access to new technologies, been systematically left out of conversations at the intersection of technology and policy, and who have been denied opportunities to join the technology workforce, in efforts to further the positive social impact of technology for all communities. Centering community needs may be demonstrated by incorporating community partners in the design and execution of proposed projects.

Proposals are invited in three funding tranches. Budgets should be inclusive of an indirect rate, set at 20% of total direct costs.

  1. Up to $45,000 for direct and indirect costs
  2. Up to $90,000 for direct and indirect costs
  3. Up to $180,000 for direct and indirect costs which shall be in collaboration with the Law, Policy and Engineering initiative

Penn State can submit a total of three proposals, only one of which can fall within the funding tranche $91,000-$180,000.

Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Jul 15, 2021
OSVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Interested applicants should upload the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (File name: Last name_PIT-UN_2021 no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

1. Cover Letter (1 page, pdf):

  • Descriptive title of proposed activity
  • PI name, departmental affiliations(s) and contact information
  • Co-PI's names and departmental affiliation(s)
  • Names of other key personnel
  • Participating institution(s)
  • Title of this funding opportunity
  • Funding tranche

2. Project Description (no more than three pages, pdf) identifying the project scope that addresses the following components (for details see RFP linked at the right)

  • Project Plan
  • Impact
  • Network Impact
  • Institutional Support
  • Partnerships (internal or external partnerships (current or planned))
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

3. 2-page CV's of Investigators

Formatting Guidelines:

Font/size: no smaller than 11 pt.
Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)


To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OSVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Tuesday, June 1, 2021 - 4:00pm
For help or questions: 

The Office of Foundation Relations and the Law, Policy and Engineering initiative are the designated institutional contacts responsible for communicating to the PIT-UN For questions concerning the application process and other Network-related questions, applicants should please contact Sandra Allain (sjallain@psu.edu), Director of Law, Policy, and Engineering and University designee with the PIT-UN or Sophie Penney, Ph.D., Director of Foundation Relations (swp2@psu.edu) for additional support.

Tranche 3 - Sandra Allain (CoE); Sascha Meinrath (Comm): PSU still eligible for Tranche 1 & 2 Contact limitedsubs@psu.edu if interested