Important Dates

EXTENDED Submission deadline: September 14, 2021 at 11:59 PM EST

Awardees announced: October 15, 2021

ISTAS21 Conference dates: October 28-31, 2021

Call for Papers: SSIT Student Essay Contest

The Call For Papers: Student Essay Contest Has Officially Closed

Contest Overview
Essay Topics
Submission Guidelines
About SSIT

NOTE: As of August 31, 2021, the submission deadline for the SSIT Student Essay Contest has been extended. Thank you to all students who have already submitted essays! You are welcome to upload an updated file through EasyChair if you would like to make any changes to your submission between now and the extended contest closing date of September 14th.

Contest Overview

Are you an undergraduate student who has recently researched, written about, or is interested in the social implications of technology? Would you like to share your ideas with a broader audience and win cash prizes? Then the inaugural IEEE Society on Social Implications Technology (SSIT) Student Essay Contest is for you! 

With this contest, the SSIT is offering a chance for students to gain a larger audience for their ideas and work. The contest is a global initiative launched by the SSIT Student Activities Committees and run as a part of the Society’s flagship conference, the International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS21). The conference will take place on 28-31 October and is focused on the overarching theme “Technological Stewardship and Responsible Innovation”. Conference programming will address the following sub-themes:

  • Health Systems 
  • Privacy & Security 
  • Technology Policy & Governance
  • Sustainable Cities & Communities
  • Artificial Intelligence & Automation
  • Ethical and Human Values in Emerging Technology 

In addition, the IEEE International Symposium on Ethics in Engineering, Science and Technology (ETHICS-2021) takes place as a track within the ISTAS21 program, focused on the theme of “Engineering and Corporate Social Responsibility” (see ETHICS-2021 CFP for sub-themes).

Please see below for additional details about the essay topics and submission guidelines. 

Essay Topics

The 2021 SSIT Student Essay Contest invites submissions on the following THREE topics. One winner and one runner-up will be selected from submissions to EACH category. You may write on ONE topic: 

Topic 1: Public Health, Digital Surveillance, and Privacy

  • A survey of perceptions on contact-tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic across 19 countries revealed that nearly three-quarters of respondents were willing to provide contact information. For individuals who were unwilling to share their personal information, the most common reason was fear of governments and technology companies tracking them. How have contact-tracing and other public health digital surveillance methods of the COVID-19 pandemic challenged notions of privacy? Furthermore, should contact-tracing be used, and if so, how can governments and health authorities promote public trust? 

Topic 2: (Mis)Information, Social Media, and Censorship

  • False rumors spread “farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth” online, according to a 2018 study published in Science. The amount of “fake news” and misinformation is rising and peaks during key events, such as the U.S. presidential elections of 2016 and 2020, along with posts encouraging or inciting violence. In response, social media platforms have begun suspending accounts and removing content; however, many believe that Internet censorship violates freedom of speech. How can social media companies (such as TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit) counter misinformation on their algorithmic platforms while considering the implications of censorship in democratic societies? Correspondingly, how can social media companies be internally and/or externally regulated?

Topic 3: YOUR Take on “Technological Stewardship and Responsible Innovation”

  • Students are also invited to present their own interpretations of and ideas about the ISTAS21 conference theme, “Technological Stewardship and Responsible Innovation”. This open prompt challenges students to consider the meaning and significance of  “social responsibility” and/or “stewardship” during this era of unprecedented technological innovation. Why and how should we uphold ethics, sustainability, equity, and social values within the technology industry?  Submissions under this category may focus on one (or more) of the conference subthemes, as listed above, and can also draw from students’ own research projects to support their arguments.

Submission Guidelines

Scope, Length, Format:

  • Submissions to the contest should:
    • Present and argue a clear and focused central idea, 
    • Incorporate discussion of relevant research/contexts, and 
    • Provide references using IEEE citation guidelines.
  • Essays must be 1000-1500 words (excluding references). 
  • Essays must be submitted through the EasyChair portal as PDFs, following the IEEE conference template. 
  • Please note that although the EasyChair portal provides the option for multiple authors, the Student Essay Contest will only accept single-author submissions.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Students from any discipline are invited to participate. 
  • You must either:
    • Be currently enrolled as an undergraduate student, or 
    • Have completed your undergraduate studies no earlier than January 2021.
  • Each student may submit only one essay to the contest.

Awards and Adjudication


  • Awardees will be announced on October 15, 2021. 
  • For each of the three categories outlined above (see “Topics”):
    • The winning entry will receive a prize of $120 (USD).
    • The runner-up will receive a prize of $80 (USD). 
  • Both winners and runners-up will receive the following additional benefits:
    • Publication of their essays on the SSIT, ISTAS21, and ETHICS-2021 websites;
    • Free registration to the ISTAS21 conference;
    • One-year student membership to the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology for 2022. 
  • Winners may be invited to expand their submission for publication in a special-issue of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.


  • Essays will be judged by an interdisciplinary committee of graduate students led by faculty members.
  • Essays will be adjudicated on their:
    • Clarity, focus, and insight of argument (including relevance to the essay prompt),
    • Use of existing research to support the argument presented.

About the IEEE Society on Social Implications Technology (SSIT)

The IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) focuses on issues concerning Technology and Society. Through publications (such as the award-winning IEEE Technology and Society Magazine), conferences, social media groups, blogs, websites and local events, SSIT fosters dialogue on how we can address the challenges and opportunities presented by our world’s technologies.

If you want to know more about the contest or have any quick questions, please traverse through the information video here.

Please email if you have any further questions or concerns about the student essay contest.