June 14, 2021

Foundational Integrity Research: 2021 Misinformation and Polarization request for proposals

This Research Award is now closed

About

Facebook’s integrity efforts are at the heart of the company’s mission to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together, because we want social technologies to be a place where people can express themselves freely, fairly, and safely around the world. Over the last few years we have increased our investment in people and technology to minimize the effects of negative experiences people encounter on our platforms. The effectiveness of these efforts relies strongly on our partnerships with social scientists to conduct foundational and applied research around challenges pertaining to platform governance in domains such as news, misinformation, politics, health, climate change, civic engagement, trust, polarization, and conflict.

In this request for proposals (RFP), Facebook is offering awards to global social science researchers interested in exploring the societal issues of misinformation and polarization related to social communication technologies. We will provide a total of $1,000,000 USD in funding for research proposals that aim to enrich our understanding of challenges related to misinformation, polarization, information quality, and social conflict on social media and social technology platforms. Our goal for these awards is to support the growth of scientific knowledge in these spaces and to contribute to a shared understanding across the broader scientific community and technology industry on how social technology companies can better address social issues on their platforms. Research is not restricted to focusing on Facebook Inc. apps and technologies.

Award Recipients

Andrea Carson

La Trobe University

RFP: Foundational Integrity Research: 2021 Misinformation and Polarization request for proposals - 2021

Avinash Collis

University of Texas at Austin

RFP: Foundational Integrity Research: 2021 Misinformation and Polarization request for proposals - 2021

Brian McQuinn

University of Regina

RFP: Foundational Integrity Research: 2021 Misinformation and Polarization request for proposals - 2021

Cindy Shen

University of California, Davis

RFP: Foundational Integrity Research: 2021 Misinformation and Polarization request for proposals - 2021

Dean Eckles

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

RFP: Foundational Integrity Research: 2021 Misinformation and Polarization request for proposals - 2021

Dr. Niloufer Siddiqui

University at Albany

RFP: Foundational Integrity Research: 2021 Misinformation and Polarization request for proposals - 2021

Applications are now closed

Application Dates

  • Launch Date June 14, 2021
  • Deadline July 14, 2021, 5:00 p.m. AOE
  • Winners Announced September 2021

Areas of Interest

Priority research areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Affective polarization and online conflict: We welcome proposals that explore measurement, processes, and effects of polarization, particularly affective polarization (whether political, religious, ethnic, or another type). In addition to advances in attitudinal and behavioral measurement, we are particularly interested in causal models of polarization driven by informational, environmental, demographic, and institutional factors, especially when related to online communication or networks. Investigations to distinguish positive, in-group content and social dynamics versus detrimental “out-group” ones are appreciated, as are proposals exploring experimental interventions on polarization (especially when focused on conflict resolution and other deterrents). Non-Western measures and analyses of affective polarization are encouraged, particularly when applied to questions of equitable impact on vulnerable communities.
  • Misinformation versus authoritative content: We welcome proposals that explore how we can best measure the relative benefits and consequences of access to and engagement with authoritative content versus misinformation. In particular, we are interested in understanding more about how we could reliably quantify these trade-offs and determine which types, dynamics, and actors of higher- or lower-quality information lead to the most harm or the most defense against harm. We highlight the important need for causal evaluations to understand the relative impact of authoritative sources versus misinformative sources on people’s attitudes, knowledge, and behavior.
  • Climate change on social media: We welcome proposals to better understand social discourse about climate change on social media. This includes proposals on evaluating and categorizing attitudes toward climate change, detecting social behaviors and trends in misinformation about this topic, identifying barriers to education about climate topics, and designing and evaluating interventions for promoting awareness of climate change. In addition, we would welcome proposals for exploring how these various aspects of climate change discourse compare across international populations.
  • Information processing around sensational, hateful, divisive, or provocative problematic content: We welcome proposals that explore the social, psychological, emotional, and cognitive variables involved in the consumption of “grey area” content experiences – sensational, provocative, divisive, hateful, misleading, or biased information – received and produced on social media platforms. In particular, we are interested in understanding how people across different backgrounds, communities, and cultures interact with, are affected by, and decide to promote or share the spectrum of possibly problematic content. Studies that explicitly examine long-term exposure to these types of content or behaviors and their effects on people with deeper or longer engagement are encouraged. We are interested in understanding what aspects of the experience might help individuals engage more critically with or more consciously avoid problematic experiences. Measurement of perceptions and awareness of the prevalence or distribution of this content can be an additional impactful contribution.
  • Dangerous speech, conflict, and violence: We welcome proposals that examine how people and organizations are leveraging social media to organize and potentially influence intergroup relations in their constituencies. We are interested in projects that probe the connection between online speech and subsequent consequences of both offline and online harms. In particular, research that explores deterrents to online and offline problematic behavior related to dangerous speech and harmful conflict. Projects that focus on actors, content, and behaviors related to sharing inflammatory, offensive, or dangerous content are encouraged. We are also interested in understanding this space in markets with limited institutions, developing media markets, and variations in levels of democracy in non-Western contexts.
  • Misinformation across formats: We welcome proposals that investigate the role of non-textual media (images, videos, audio, etc.) on the effectiveness of and people's engagement with misinformation. This area includes basic multimedia like infographics, memes, and audio, compared to more-complex video and emerging technological advances. In particular, we are interested in cognition and susceptibility in the face of either simple or advanced manipulated multimedia (misleading synthetic “deepfakes” and simpler edited “cheapfakes”), particularly investigating the impact on people's attitudes and behaviors. Additional areas could include the dynamics of rumors, out-of-context imagery, impersonation of public figures/organizations, etc.
  • News, trust, and information quality: We welcome proposals that examine news consumers' and non-consumers' exposure to, interaction with, and understanding of qualities of information, especially their attitudes and interpretations of news quality, trust, and bias. We are interested in models of the impact of institutional intermediaries (e.g., fact-checkers), community leaders, community moderation or feedback, and credibility signals. We will also accept studies focusing on dynamics and effects of information diversity. A focus on information domains such as science, health, finance, religion, and politics is encouraged but not required.
  • Cross-platform information ecosystem understanding: We welcome proposals that inspect information practices and flows across multiple communication technologies or mediums. In particular, individual, group, and community effects of information campaigns, inauthentic behavior, or coordinated activities across multiple communities, networks, channels, or platforms.
  • Digital literacy, demographics, and misinformation: We welcome proposals that explore the relation between digital literacy and vulnerability to misinformation in communication technologies. Especially in some emerging markets, social media platforms have gained many participants among those new to the internet and populations with lower exposure to technology. We are interested in research that informs efforts to incorporate technology effectively and contextually into underserved geographical regions. This includes studies of individuals, small groups, and larger communities, but also wider inquiries into factors that shape the context for the user experience online.
  • Restrictions on online expression: We welcome proposals that investigate the impact of restrictions on online expression and social media use, particularly using human rights frameworks or perspectives and especially across the Global South. Recent trends such as internet disruptions/shutdowns, increasingly authoritarian internet regulations, and coordinated abusive activities have complicated and increased the risks of online participation. The impact of these trends on the role of social media platforms in the information ecosystem is a key topic of concern, particularly when it comes to rights related to information access.

Successful proposals will demonstrate innovative and compelling social science research that has the potential to significantly advance the community’s understanding of the impact of technology on society. Proposals are encouraged with the following two emphases:

  • Studies that draw on traditional social science methods like interviews, surveys, ethnographic observation, content analyses, and survey/behavioral experiments, or innovative mixed methodological approaches that combine these methods.
  • Comparative research and inclusion of non-Western regions that have experienced a growth in social media platform use, including South and Central America, Sub-Saharan and North Africa, the Middle East, and Central, South, and Southeast Asia. We encourage proposals from researchers, or collaborations with researchers, based in the country/countries being researched.

Facebook research awards provide support for independent research projects designed to be shared with the larger scientific, policy, and industry communities. These awards will be made as unrestricted gifts to allow investigators the freedom to deepen and extend their existing research portfolios to study the social impact of online interaction and information technologies.

Requirements

Proposals should include

  • A summary of the project (1–2 pages): Include an explanation of the area of focus, techniques, relevant prior work, quantifiable risks/dependencies, and a timeline with milestones and expected outcomes. Please see the Additional Information section below for more guidance. References may exceed the page limit, but please keep concise. Proposed projects should be up to and not exceeding 1 year in duration.
  • A draft budget (1 page): Include an approximate cost of the project and explanation of how funds would be spent. Proposals should focus on costs of the empirical research. Participants will be invited (not required) to attend one virtual or in-person meeting with the Facebook research and product teams; travel and lodging costs for a trip to Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, California (or another Facebook location), should be included in the proposed budget.
  • Curriculum vitae: Provide the name of each researcher involved in the proposed work with their CV/résumé
  • Administrative information: Include the institution’s tax ID number and details for both a finance contact and authorized authority that can sign award documentation.
  • Keywords: Select the primary research area from the bolded “Principal Areas of Exploration” above that is most relevant for your proposal. This will assist in the appropriate assignment of reviewers.

Eligibility

  • Institutions must be academic institutions or non-governmental organizations with recognized legal status in their respective country (equal to 501(c)(3) status under the United States Internal Revenue Code).
  • Applicants must be the Principal Investigator (PI) on any resulting award. All funding will be directed to the PI’s host institution.
  • PIs may submit one proposal per solicitation. Multiple proposals from the same institution are acceptable. However, PIs may not be a supporting researcher on another application.
  • Awards must comply with applicable U.S. and international laws, regulations, and policies.
  • The award is restricted to social science research that contributes to generalized scientific knowledge and its application. Documentaries, journalism, and oral history projects are not eligible for this solicitation.

Budget and payment

  • Award amounts will be provided at two levels, $50,000 USD or $100,000 USD.
  • Payment will be made to the PI’s host institution as an unrestricted gift. Overhead is limited to 5% for gifts.

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%

One person will need to be the primary PI (i.e., the submitter that will receive all email notifications); however, you’ll be given the opportunity to list collaborators/co-PIs in the submission form. Please note in your budget breakdown how the funds should be dispersed amongst PIs.

Terms & Conditions

Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to Facebook RFP solicitations, including whether or not to grant an award and the interpretation of Facebook RFP Terms and Conditions. By submitting a proposal, applicants affirm that they have read and agree to these Terms and Conditions.

  • Facebook is authorized to evaluate proposals submitted under its RFPs, to consult with outside experts, as needed, in evaluating proposals, and to grant or deny awards using criteria determined by Facebook to be appropriate and at Facebook’s sole discretion. Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to its RFPs, and applicants agree not to challenge any such decisions.
  • Facebook will not be required to treat any part of a proposal as confidential or protected by copyright, and may use, edit, modify, copy, reproduce and distribute all or a portion of the proposal in any manner for the sole purposes of administering the Facebook RFP website and evaluating the contents of the proposal.
  • Personal data submitted with a proposal, including name, mailing address, phone number, and email address of the applicant and other named researchers in the proposal may be collected, processed, stored and otherwise used by Facebook for the purposes of administering Facebook’s RFP website, evaluating the contents of the proposal, and as otherwise provided under Facebook’s Privacy Policy.
  • Neither Facebook nor the applicant is obligated to enter into a business transaction as a result of the proposal submission. Facebook is under no obligation to review or consider the proposal.
  • Feedback provided in a proposal regarding Facebook 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 the applicant. The submission of a proposal will not result in the transfer of ownership of any IP rights.
  • Applicants represent and warrant that they have authority to submit a proposal in connection with a Facebook RFP and to grant the rights set forth herein on behalf of their organization. All awards provided by Facebook in connection with this RFP shall be used only in accordance with applicable laws and shall not be used in any way, directly or indirectly, to facilitate any act that would constitute bribery or an illegal kickback, an illegal campaign contribution, or would otherwise violate any applicable anti-corruption or political activities law.
  • Awards granted in connection with RFP proposals will be subject to terms and conditions contained in the unrestricted gift agreement (or, in some cases, other mechanisms) pursuant to which the award funding will be provided. Applicants understand and acknowledge that they will need to agree to these terms and conditions to receive an award.