Penn Media Accountability Project (PennMAP) Research and Outcomes to Expand Thanks to Leadership Gift

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Duncan Watts, Stevens University Professor

PHILADELPHIA, September 30, 2021—The Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania are delighted to announce the expansion of the Penn Media Accountability Project (PennMAP), an interdisciplinary, nonpartisan research project dedicated to enhancing media transparency and accountability. Its growth is made possible by a new leadership gift from Richard Jay Mack, W’89.

“Our goal at PennMAP is to detect and expose biased, misleading, and otherwise problematic content in media from across the political spectrum and spanning television, radio, social media, and the broader web,” says Duncan Watts, the Stevens University Professor and a Wharton professor of Operations, Information and Decisions who leads PennMAP. Watts also holds faculty appointments in the Annenberg School of Communication and in the Department of Computer and Information Science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is a Faculty Fellow of Analytics at Wharton, the preeminent and first business school center focused on research, teaching, and corporate partnerships around analytics and their application in business, non-profits, and society.

“Clearly this is an ambitious goal that requires a substantial investment in research infrastructure as well as building collaborations with a diverse set of partners,” says Watts. “Richard Mack’s generous gift will allow us to significantly accelerate our efforts and increase our impact both in terms of research and the public conversation on these important issues. We are tremendously grateful for his support.”

PennMAP is a product of the University’s Computational Social Science Lab (CSSLab), a joint venture of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Annenberg School for Communication, and the Wharton School. The Lab seeks novel, replicable insights into societally relevant problems by applying computational methods to large-scale data.

“This gift will further the incredible work at PennMAP, and is testament to the shared belief of proud Wharton alumni, like Richard, in the critical nature of this timely, groundbreaking research and applied insight,” says Wharton Dean Erika James. “Richard’s commitment to the entire Wharton community is evident in his decision to reinvest back into an environment that promotes continuous learning and challenges traditional thinking.”

PennMAP is building a network of partners across industry, academia, and government to develop shared research infrastructure and communicate findings. Mack’s generous support enhances the means for CSSLab to gather, process, and analyze content and more extensively and closely coordinate data resources, researchers, and relationships.

“I cannot think of a more critical time to support the important work being undertaken by PennMAP,” says Mack. “Wharton has always encouraged its students to drive change; leveraging evidence-based research to gain a deeper understanding of the media’s effects on our own judgements—promoting more objective and fair news coverage—will do just that. I am pleased to lend my support to the cause.”

Richard Mack is the CEO and co-founder at Mack Real Estate Group, an integrated developer, operator, investor and lender with offices and affiliates across major markets of the United States. He serves on the Wharton Board of Advisors, and previously served on Wharton’s Undergraduate Executive Board.

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