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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.

  • Office hour: Friday 2-4pm (2023 spring semester)
  • Office: SRH3.324, +1-512-232-4240
  • Email:
  • Elsewhere: @Google Scholar | @GitHub

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

Computational social science methods. While social scientists are well-versed in conventional qualitative and quantitative methods, an emerging set of techniques known as “computational social science” (CSS) is generating excitement among researchers across all social science disciplines. Despite the term “CSS” being coined some time ago, many scholars still consider it a buzzword rather than a new methodological paradigm. This may be because most of the associated methods were originally developed by computer scientists, and the term has not been adequately framed from a social science research design perspective. Given its growing importance in evidence-based policymaking, my focus on computational methods extends beyond methodology, recognizing them as essential tools for understanding and addressing social problems and promoting social equity and diversity. This line of research has appeared in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly and Voluntas.

Intellectual growth in interdisciplinary research fields. Developing a cohesive and substantial body of knowledge is at the core of all academic disciplines. I became interested in this research line while I was in my doctoral program, where we would often ask questions such as “Is there an emerging research field of nonprofit and philanthropy?” and “Will we form a new discipline or stay as a research field?” These types of questions are typical and critical to all emerging and interdisciplinary research areas. This line of research has appeared in Voluntas and Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

Civil society sectors in authoritarian countries. Before entering academia, I co-founded a grassroots nongovernmental organization (NGO) focused on improving the quality of education in rural China. While serving as its inaugural executive director, I was puzzled and curious about the appropriate roles of NGOs in an authoritarian country and how the state and NGOs should interact. This curiosity motivated my doctoral training and dissertation: why do civil society sectors exist in authoritarian countries, and how do they interact with states? 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.