Boston University announced Wednesday that it has hired Joan Donovan, the internet misinformation and disinformation researcher whose exit from Harvard University has stirred controversy.
In February, The Harvard Crimson student newspaper, citing unnamed staff members at the Harvard Kennedy School, reported that its dean was forcing Donovan out of her role as research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Harvard has denied that there was anything unusual about her departure.
“Joan Donovan has always been a staff member at HKS and was not a faculty member,” a Harvard Kennedy School spokeswoman said in an email Wednesday. “All long-term projects at HKS need to be run by and have intellectual oversight by a faculty member. The completion of grant-funded research on [Donovan’s] TaSC [Technology and Social Change] project is the reason that the project is ending at this time; this has nothing to do with minimizing the importance of the topics of misinformation and disinformation, or with limiting academic freedom.”
In July, Donovan told Times Higher Education that Harvard was “wanting to silence me,” and pointed to tech company-related funding the university received.
Boston said in its news release Wednesday that it hired Donovan as an assistant professor, so she will be on the tenure-track there.
“I was looking for a place that would offer me the most academic freedom, where they were also at a turning point in their own march through history, and I found BU very exciting,” Donovan said in the release.
Mariette DiChristina, dean of Boston's College of Communication, said in the release that “In an era of increasing polarization, and with a big election year coming up, Dr. Donovan’s work is more important than ever.”