National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine features Imagining the Internet research

School of Communications Professor Janna Anderson and Advisory Board member Lee Rainie gave an address on “trust in the digital future” on Feb. 20 in Washington, D.C.  

Janna Anderson, professor of communications and director of Elon's Imagining the Internet Center

Elon University research on security and trust in the digital world was the focus of a meeting at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine held in the nation’s capital Feb. 20. The Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable invited Janna Anderson, director of Elon’s Imagining the Internet Center, and Lee Rainie, director of internet and technology research for the Pew Research Center, to present on their recent studies.

Anderson and Rainie, the parent of an Elon alumna and a member of the School of Communications National Advisory Board, have partnered on research projects through Elon’s Imagining the Internet Center for nearly 20 years. The National Academies was especially interested in their recent survey of technology leaders and scholars related to online trust and what government, universities and businesses can do to assess and ensure authenticity, integrity and security of the digital systems on which society depends.

Lee Rainie is a member of the Elon University School of Communication National Advisory Board and director of internet and technology research for the Pew Research Center.
Anderson told the group that trust remains among the hottest topics in the digital world. “Daily we are bombarded by headlines expressing worries over security, misinformation, surveillance, and the future of work and an increasing loss of human agency as algorithms invisibly assist in all processes,” Anderson said. “Over the past 15 years, the many thousands of expert opinions we have compiled in dozens of reports are a revealing sampling of people’s greatest hopes and fears for the future. Trust is expressed in all hopes. We want to trust, we benefit from trust and we have come to find we MUST trust in digital technologies.”  

The purpose of the workshop was to examine the state of research and commercial applications of deep neural networks, distributed ledger technology, and quantum information systems within the context of how these emerging technologies challenge or enable an ability to establish systems of trust in the United States and throughout the global economy. 

The Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable convenes senior-most representatives to define and explore critical issues related to the national and global science and technology agenda that are of shared interest; to frame the next critical question stemming from current debate and analysis; and to incubate activities of on-going value to the stakeholders.  

Other speakers at the roundtable discussion included senior leaders from IBM, Cisco, MITRE Corp., Cambridge Quantum Computing, MIT Technology Review, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Princeton University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the State University of New York.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine was founded in 1863 to marshal the energy and intellect of the nation’s critical thinkers to respond to policy challenges with science, engineering, and medicine at their core. Through a meticulous process of information collection, evidence analysis, and deliberation, studies by the National Academies provide blueprints for progress.