April 6, 2020

Economic Impact of Digital Technologies request for proposals

This Research Award is now closed


Facebook is issuing a call for academic research proposals as part of its pledge to contribute $1 million to research that addresses the economic impact of digital technologies, including new tools that enable commercial opportunities. As progress in digital technology and the ongoing development of digital platforms continue to reshape the global economy, they have also contributed to the rise of new tools for conducting business in unprecedented ways. Many of these digital tools have empowered entrepreneurs and small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in particular to engage in commercial opportunities and drive growth where they may not have otherwise had access, for example, through digital payments, online consumer research, and data-driven advertising. Moreover, when growth is challenged by economic contraction or other disruptive circumstances (such as COVID-19), digital technologies may offer businesses the means to quickly adjust their practices, enabling them to minimize adverse impacts and remain resilient.

Facebook is especially interested in supporting projects that address the economic consequences and implications of developing digital technologies for small businesses. Topics of interest for this request for proposals (RFP) include, but are not limited to, measuring new types of economic impact — for example, assessing the implications of digital technologies for growth, resilience under challenging circumstances, inclusion of marginalized groups, efficiency of payment systems, or other business outcomes.

Applications are now closed

Application Dates

Notifications will be sent by email to selected applicants in Summer 2020.

  • Launch Date April 6, 2020
  • Deadline May 20, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. AOE
  • Winners Announced Summer 2020

Areas of Interest

Scholars may consider focusing their research on the following topics, though creative approaches beyond these areas are also encouraged:

Agile business strategies enabled by data-driven advertising and other digital technologies

  • Technological factors influencing the resilience of businesses during economic downturns, disruptions, and other market challenges
  • How digital technologies help businesses explore and uncover new economic opportunities when existing business models are not viable during emergencies, natural disasters, or other external interruptions to business operations (for example, during the COVID-19 outbreak)
  • How businesses are able to more quickly adapt to challenges stemming from natural disasters or other emergencies and respond to shifting needs and interests of their customers

The impact of digital advertising on online platforms

  • Estimation of the economic value of the internet without digital advertising
  • Evaluation of the differences (e.g., cost, effectiveness, social value) between data-driven and conventional contextual digital advertising
  • Advantages and disadvantages of existing vs. alternative models for non-advertising based online platforms and services (e.g., subscriptions, gig economy, etc.)

Understanding the relationship between, and influence of, data-driven advertising on new market entrants and novel product categories

  • Emerging metrics and practices; identification of the new signposts of business success and growth in the current digital economy
  • Impact of contextual versus data-driven advertising for unfamiliar brands or new products

The value of data-driven advertising with regard to consumers

  • Measurement of the financial impact (costs and benefits) of data-driven advertising versus contextual digital advertising for consumers
  • Assessment of the effect of digital advertising on business models for publishers (e.g., subscription or premium add-on services) on the longevity of businesses
  • Impact of data-driven advertising on the relationship between SMBs and their customers

Facebook is interested in supporting broader research efforts on the topic of the economic impact of digital technologies. Proposed research may extend beyond Facebook apps and technologies. Researchers may request between $50K to $100K to support projects that will be completed in approximately one year from award receipt.

Researchers globally are encouraged to propose projects of an empirical and theoretical nature. Those proposing theoretical research should, however, also consider how measurements might be empirically estimated. Successful proposals will demonstrate innovative and compelling research that has the potential to advance science and understanding in the topic areas and provide value to policymakers, practitioners, and organizations working in these areas.


Proposals should include

  • Summary of the project (1–2 pages): Include an explanation of the area of focus, a description of techniques, any relevant prior work, and a timeline with milestones and expected outcomes. Please also include a clear and concise statement of the scientific contribution and routes to eventual deployment.
  • A budget description (1 page): Include an approximate cost of the project and explanation of how funds would be spent. Please also account for funds for travel for the Principal Investigator (PI) to attend a faculty summit in Menlo Park, California to discuss findings in 2021.
  • Curriculum vitae(s): Provide the name of each researcher involved in the proposed work with their CV/résumé or link to Google Scholar page.
  • Administrative information: Include the institution’s tax ID number and details for both a finance contact and authorized authority that can sign award documentation.


  • The RFP is open to researchers (faculty, PhD students, post-doctoral scholars, etc) from all disciplines.
  • Each proposal must have one designated Principal Investigator (PI) who is able to receive the award funding at their institution. Additional researchers on the research team are acceptable/encouraged, but we are unable to divide gifts amongst multiple institutions.
  • Organizations must be an accredited academic institution or a non-governmental organization with recognized legal status in their respective country (equal to 501(c)(3) status under the United States Internal Revenue Code).
  • Applicants may submit one proposal per solicitation as the PI.
  • Awards must comply with applicable U.S. and international laws, regulations, and policies.

Budget and payment

  • Award amount can vary but will typically be between $50K and $100K.
  • Payment will be made to the PI’s host institution as an unrestricted gift. Overhead is limited to 5% for gifts and should be included in the proposed budget.

Additional Information

  • Facebook will not provide access to any Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp data for awarded projects. Any data collected by research teams must comply with Facebook’s terms and policies and the institution’s institutional review board. Please be aware that Facebook does not allow the automated scraping of public information from its apps and technologies.
  • Award recipients will be invited to a faculty summit at Facebook to discuss their findings and insights.
  • We encourage the winners to openly publish any findings or insights from their work. Successful awardees will also be listed on the Facebook Research website.

For additional questions related to this RFP, please email academicrelations@fb.com.

Terms & Conditions

Grant Terms and Conditions

Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to this solicitation, including interpretation of these Terms and awards at any time. Awards will be subject to additional Terms and Conditions for awardees which will be communicated to recipients after selection. All items apply unless otherwise stated above. Please Read These Terms Carefully Before Proceeding.

  • By submitting a proposal, you are authorizing Facebook to evaluate the proposal for a potential award, and you agree to the terms herein.
  • You agree that Facebook will not be required to treat any part of the proposal as confidential or protected by copyright, and may use, edit, modify, copy, reproduce, and distribute all or a portion of your proposal in any manner for the sole purposes of administering the website and evaluating the contents of the proposal.
  • You agree and acknowledge that personal data submitted with the proposal, including name, mailing address, phone number, and email address of you and other named researchers in the proposal may be collected, processed, stored and otherwise used by Facebook for the purposes of administering the website and evaluating the contents of the proposal.
  • You acknowledge that neither party is obligated to enter into any business transaction as a result of the proposal submission, Facebook is under no obligation to review or consider the proposal, and neither party acquires any intellectual property rights as a result of submitting the proposal.
  • Any feedback you provide to Facebook in the proposal regarding its products or services will not be treated as confidential or protected by copyright, and Facebook is free to use such feedback on an unrestricted basis with no compensation to you.
  • Applicants represent and warrant that they have authority to submit a proposal in connection with this RFP and grant the rights set forth herein on behalf of their organization.

See this page for full Terms and Conditions.


Frequently Asked Questions

Most of the RFP awards are an unrestricted gift. Because of its nature, salary/headcount could be included as part of the budget presented for the RFP. Since the award/gift is paid to the university, they will be able to allocate the funds to that winning project and have the freedom to use as they need. All Facebook teams are different and have different expectations concerning deliverables, timing, etc. Long story short – yes, money for salary/headcount can be included. It’s up to the reviewing team to determine if the percentage spend is reasonable and how that relates to the decision if the project is a winner or not.

We are flexible, but ideally proposals submitted are single-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt font.

Research awards are given year-round and funding years/duration can vary by proposal.

Yes, award funds can be used to cover a researcher’s salary.

Budgets can vary by institution and geography, but overall research funds ideally cover the following: graduate or post-graduate students’ employment/tuition; other research costs (e.g., equipment, laptops, incidental costs); travel associated with the research (conferences, workshops, summits, etc.); overhead for research gifts is limited to 5%

Funding for the award will be directed to the university of the PI, but the university can re-distribute funding to co-PIs as needed for the project.