February 29, 2000

Pew Charitable Trusts Backs Research Examining The Internet

Philadelphia—(February 29, 2000)–The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today that a $5.9 million grant has been made to create a research center that will explore the impact of the Internet on American society.

Unlike other research centers that focus on e-commerce and other business applications on the Web, Pew’s Internet and American Life Project will study aspects of the Web that have not received sustained attention from policymakers and scholars: its impact on fundamental relationships at home, in the community, in schools and in churches, and the government and non-profit sectors.

“We want to support nonpartisan, objective studies that examine the effect of this communications revolution on children and families, communities, schools, the work place, and civic life,” said Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “There is considerable investment now in research focused on the commercial role of the Internet. There is precious little investment being made in research designed to understand the social and societal implications of this new medium. For better or worse, our lives will be changed by the web. But we expect the new research center to help us all more clearly understand these implications.”

The Pew Internet & American Life Project will be run in Washington, D.C. by Harrison “Lee” Rainie, former managing editor of the newsweekly magazine U.S. News & World Report. The grant will cover a three-year research effort.

The project will be an initiative of the Pew Research Center for the People & and Press, a Washington-based polling and research organization run by Andrew Kohut. Some of the studies done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project will build on the surveys completed by Kohut in the 1990s that first charted how Internet users were employing online sources to get their news and how the demographics of the Internet began to change dramatically in 1998 as more and more Americans went online.

“Our goal is to monitor the growth of Internet use and the way it is affecting the everyday lives of Americans,” said Rainie. “We also want to produce data and analysis that will be useful to the public and decision makers in the debate on crucial issues like privacy protections, health-care delivery, education reform, economic development, and Internet architecture questions.”

The Pew Internet & American Life Project will produce reports on a range of topics. The research methods will vary depending on the issues that are being examined. Some of the reports will be based on national phone surveys; some will rely on online questionnaires; some will be based on surveys of specific audiences such as teachers, public officials, church leaders, and physicians; some will be based on direct observations of the way people use the Internet; and others will be built around information gathered from public sources and data bases.

The project will have a six-person staff. They will directly produce some of the research themselves, but also will work with leading polling firms, research organizations and other experts in putting together other reports.

“Some of our work will be built around classic wear-down-your-shoeleather reporting,” said Rainie. “There are times when you simply have to go rooting around in a subject, asking questions to see what is interesting and why it is important. In that spirit, we’ll do content analysis of web sites. We’ll explore how various groups and communities use the Internet. We’ll find ways to measure how deeply the Internet has penetrated people’s lives. And we’ll explore the size and shape of the Internet itself.”

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, through a grant to the Tides Center. The project’s Web site is http://www.pewinternet.org.

The Pew Charitable Trusts invest in ideas that fuel timely action and results. It is focusing a significant portion of its resources on supporting programs that stimulate participation in civic affairs. These include initiatives that foster a citizenry more engaged in local, regional and national public issues and that provide information resources for the media, the public and policymakers. Click on the Web site at http://www.pewtrusts.com.

Contact:
Barbara Beck, The Pew Charitable Trusts, 215-575-4816, bbeck@pewtrusts.com
Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project, 202-339-6149, lrainie@researchengine.org.