A multidisciplinary team of UCI researchers and institutional partners led by Bill Maurer, dean of the School of Social Sciences (pictured) will pilot the Algorithmic Observatory – a community-driven forum to monitor and counter disinformation in the financial services industry - with support from the NSF Convergence Accelorator. UCI

A multidisciplinary team of UCI researchers and institutional partners received $750,000 from the National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator to conduct a large-scale study to understand mis- and disinformation about money, banking and finance among racialized and marginalized communities in the United States.

The team will approach the issue from a social science perspective using ethnographic research, content analysis and data modeling. The project is one of 28 grants awarded in this year’s NSF Convergence Accelerator cohort and one of the only funded to date that centers on the contributions of the social sciences. Bill Maurer, dean of the School of Social Sciences and director of UCI’s Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion, will lead the group, which includes:

  • Jim Weatherall, UCI logic & philosophy of science professor, who studies the spread of misinformation
  • Erin Lockwood, UCI political science assistant professor, who studies finance and political legitimacy
  • Roderic Crooks, UCI informatics assistant professor, who studies community data activism
  • Matthew Harding, UCI economics professor, who studies finance and algorithmic credit scoring
  • Taylor Nelms, ’15 UCI anthropology Ph.D. and Filene Research Institute senior director, who studies financial inclusion and community-based financial service

Together, they’ll partner with the U.S. credit union system to pilot the Algorithmic Observatory, a community-driven forum for monitoring and countering mis- and disinformation. Starting with a regional approach in Southern California, they’ll access data on communities that are targeted with predatory mis- and disinformation practices and analyze the common delivery mechanisms – social media, emails and others – of those messages. Simultaneously, researchers will distribute more reliable information to the affected communities while advocating for policy changes. Their goal is to eventually expand the Algorithmic Observatory nationwide.

“By approaching this issue from a community-driven approach, we hope to illuminate practices that are perpetuating inequity while also working to right it,” Maurer said.

Funding for this work begins in October 2021 and runs through September 2022.

About the UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Social Sciences and the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Science play a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting: https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/areas-to-support/