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My name is Ji MA (马季; first name pronounces “G”), Assistant Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. I’m also an affiliated faculty member of the Center for East Asian Studies and the School of Information at UT Austin.

I study civil society, the nonprofit sector, and philanthropy from the following perspectives (CV | recent papers):

Integrating Computational Social Science: Bridging Technology and Policy Research

In the modern policy research landscape, the embrace of computational methods, including machine learning and natural language processing, has become essential for understanding complex policy issues and advancing evidence-based policymaking. These computational methods form a crucial interdisciplinary approach, enriching the toolset of social scientists who are traditionally trained in conventional qualitative and quantitative techniques. The emerging field known as “computational social science” (CSS) represents this intersection of technology and social science. Despite its importance, many scholars have treated CSS more as a buzzword than a new paradigm. This may be because most associated methods were initially devised by computer scientists, leaving a gap in understanding from the social science perspective. My recent research has aimed to bridge this gap by defining and framing CSS as a structured methodology rather than a mere collection of methods. This line of research has appeared in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly and Voluntas.

Advocating Interdisciplinary and Equitable Knowledge Production

Understanding and shaping the growth of knowledge within academic disciplines is fundamental to intellectual progress. My second research line delves into the mechanisms that underpin the intellectual development and knowledge production within my research field. This interest was sparked during my doctoral studies when questions such as, “Is there an emerging research field of nonprofits and philanthropy?” and “Will we form a new discipline or remain a research field?” became central to our inquiries. Such questions resonate widely across all emerging and interdisciplinary research areas. This line of research has appeared in Voluntas and Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

Charting Civil Society in Authoritarian Regimes: A Journey from Grassroots Activism to Scholarly Inquiry

Before transitioning to academia, I co-founded a grassroots non-governmental organization (NGO) in China, dedicated to enhancing education quality for rural-urban migrants. While leading this NGO, I became acutely aware of the complex dynamics between civil society and state within an authoritarian context. This line of research has appeared in Scientific Data, Social Networks, Nonprofit Management & Leadership, Journal of Chinese Political Science, Voluntas, and Chinese Public Administration Review.