In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have extended the deadline for this RFP from Wednesday, April 1 to Wednesday, May 6 to give research teams additional time to submit proposals and focus first on care for their families, friends, and communities. We also understand that universities may experience some challenges regarding support for grant programs now and in the coming months. We will continue to work closely with research teams and universities on this.
Facebook’s integrity efforts are at the heart of the company’s mission to 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, civic engagement, trust, polarization, and conflict.
In this request for proposals (RFP), Facebook is offering awards to researchers interested in exploring the societal issues of misinformation and polarization related to social communication technologies. We will provide a total of $2,000,000 in funding for research proposals that aim to enrich our understanding of challenges related to misinformation, polarization, information quality, and conflict on social media and social technology platforms. Our goal for these awards is to support the growth of the scientific community in these spaces and to contribute to a shared understanding across the broader industry on how social technology companies can better address social issues on their platforms. Research is not restricted to focusing on Facebook apps and technology.
Principal areas of exploration
Priority research areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Health misinformation (limited to three projects total): We welcome proposals to better understand the health misinformation ecosystem on social media. This includes proposals around how to categorize and detect such content, how it spreads, the motivations that drive creation/distribution, the downstream effects of exposure (on attitudes and health outcomes), and how to measure and conduct effective interventions (both proactive campaigns to promote positive online/offline health outcomes and defensive measures to limit the reach of misinformation). For specific details on this area, see Additional Information: Understanding Health Misinformation on Social Media.
- Quantifying harms of misinformation (limited to three projects total): We welcome proposals that explore how we can best measure the harms that result from misinformation. In particular, we are interested in understanding more about how we could reliably quantify these harms through causal mechanisms and determine which types, dynamics, and actors of misinformation lead to the most harm. Approaches may consider numerous factors related to misinformation including its perceived credibility, resistance to correction after exposure, and downstream consequences on offline attitudes or behaviors.
- Information processing of sensational, hateful, divisive, or provocative problematic content: We welcome proposals that explore the social, psychological, 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.
- Affective polarization: We welcome proposals that explore measurement, processes, and effects of polarization, particularly affective polarization (whether political, religious, ethnic, or linguistic). 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. Non-Western measures and analyses of affective polarization are encouraged.
- Dangerous speech, conflict, and violence: We welcome proposals that examine how actors 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 offline harm. 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, multimedia, and 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.
Successful proposals will demonstrate innovative and compelling 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.
Proposals should include the following:
- 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 in-person meeting with the Facebook research and product teams in 2021; travel and lodging costs for a trip to Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, California, 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.
- 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 range from $50K to $150K. Most projects will be between $50K to $100K, with up to five awards of $150K.
- Payment will be made to the PI’s host institution as an unrestricted gift. Overhead is limited to 5% for gifts.
Timing and dates
- Applications are now open. Applications close on Wednesday, May 6 at 5:00 p.m. AOE.
- Notifications will be sent by email to applicants in summer 2020.
- No data (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) will be provided to award recipients. Any data collected by research teams must comply with Facebook’s (or other companies’) terms and policies. Please be aware that Facebook does not allow the automated scraping of information from our platforms.
- Researchers are also responsible for obtaining approval from the PI’s university’s ethics/institutional review board, if applicable.
- PIs are encouraged to submit a report to Facebook, detailing the completed research with summarized methods, findings, and accomplished/planned outcomes (e.g., publication). Representatives from each awarded project will also be invited to participate in workshops and discussions with Facebook researchers.
- Recipients are strongly encouraged to submit the completed research to an open-access scientific journal. If necessary, proposals should include open access fees in the budget.
- In addition to encouraging recipients to openly publish their resulting reports, models, analyses, proofs of concept, theory, and so on, Facebook is interested in supporting work that will generate outputs relevant to non-scholars, e.g. educational programming or materials, policy documents, etc. If relevant, proposals should include costs associated with these outputs in the budget.
- Successful awardees will be listed on the Facebook Research website.
- For additional questions related to this RFP, please email email@example.com.