February 6, 2020

Statistics for Improving Insights, Models, and Decisions request for proposals

This Research Award is now closed

About

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have extended the deadline for this RFP from Wednesday, March 25 to Wednesday, April 29 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.

At Facebook, we apply statistics to generate insights and to improve decision making for a business that touches the lives of billions of people across the globe. Making advances in statistical methodologies helps us make the best decisions for our community, products, and infrastructure. For example, we develop prevalence algorithms that can be used for rare events and bias correction, as well as accounting for the noise of labeled data (metrics included in the Facebook Transparency Report). We also design novel inference algorithms that leverage the complex social processes to detect violating behaviors online and protect the community. This includes the Deep Entity Classifier (DEC) or the Temporal Interaction EmbeddingS (TIES) models.

We are following up on the 2019 Statistics for Improving Insights and Decisions research awards to foster further innovation in this area and to deepen our collaborations with academia. External researchers can submit proposals to address challenges in applied statistics that have direct applications for producing more effective insights and decisions for data scientists and researchers. Facebook has a large, active and diverse community of practitioners, so we are interested in a varied set of statistical topics, including but not limited to experimentation, forecasting, predictive modeling, survey and ground truth modeling and sampling.

Applications are now closed

Application Dates

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have extended the deadline for this RFP from Wednesday, March 25 to Wednesday, April 29 to give research teams additional time to submit proposals and focus first on care for their families, friends, and communities.

  • Launch Date February 6, 2020
  • Deadline April 29, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. AOE
  • Winners Announced July 2020

Areas of Interest

The following are some specific examples of topics that are important to Facebook, but we will gladly review proposals for areas that are not listed below.

  • Learning and evaluation under uncertainty. To protect people online and provide them with a meaningful experience, Facebook develops predictive models, which typically require training and evaluation data. Obtaining this data is oftentimes resource intensive, e.g., manual labeling, surveys and product interactions. It is therefore subject to noise and biases. We are interested in practical methodologies that address these challenges, estimate various biases, reduce the resources used for obtaining labels and produce calibrated estimations and predictions across cohorts of varying sizes.
  • Statistical models of complex social processes. Facebook’s products help connect billions of people, and we often think of our products and systems as time-varying networks at scale. As these networks of connections evolve, various social processes also unfold on top of them: content spreads, social groups form and dissolve, people leverage their networks to organize events and support charitable causes, etc. Statistical models, both of the evolution of connection networks and of social processes on top of those networks, provide important input into Facebook’s efforts to design better products and to build safer and more meaningful communities. We invite proposals around the development, inference, and validation of such statistical models.
  • Causal inference with observational data. Often researchers at Facebook would like to answer causal questions even when it is not possible to conduct product tests. For instance, we may want to measure the effects of external events or understand the potential causes for anomalies that we observe in our data. Proposals in this area should improve our ability to suggest potential hypotheses for interesting phenomena or to credibly estimate the effects of known causes. Another application of interest is enabling Facebook to predict how key app performance and reliability metrics will change when upgrades are rolled out to the entire user base based on the treatment effect observed on a selected population during the test phase of the app. We are also interested in the related field of survey methodology - dealing with non response or missing data.
  • Efficient sampling and prevalence measurement. An important problem for Facebook is monitoring and measuring how well we do at removing content that violates our Community Standards from the platform, such as hate speech, spam and nudity. We are interested in methods that can reduce the latency, computational cost, bias and variance with which we measure the prevalence or reach of entities (posts, groups, users, ...), in particular when this prevalence is low.
  • Design and analysis of experiments. Facebook uses randomized experiments to measure the benefits of the improvements we make to our products. We seek to maximize what we learn from these experiments by improving how they are designed and analyzed. We are interested in methodologies which allow us to extend or enhance the standard experimentation framework: variance reduction; measuring heterogenous or time-varying effects; estimating effects of many-valued or continuous-valued treatments; aggregating information across multiple related experiments; and correcting for selection bias when randomization is imperfect. We are also actively interested in research on adaptive experimentation such as Bayesian optimization and reinforcement learning.
  • Anomaly Detection. Facebook solicits research on detecting usage pattern on websites or apps that are automated (e.g., scripts and bots). Research should focus on building statistical methods to analyze traffic patterns, and detecting and classifying “regular” user vs. automated behavior patterns in the absence of labeled ground truth data.
  • Interpretability techniques for AI models. Complex AI models have become increasingly opaque, so it is important for both the AI practitioners and business stakeholders to have comprehensive evaluation and understanding of the AI algorithms. This can help simplify model development, and make sure we leverage AI responsibly. We are interested in interpretability techniques in (but not limited to) any of the following topics: feature attributions, aggregate attributions, feature interaction, accumulated local effects, and global/local surrogate.

Facebook is pleased to invite faculty to respond to this call for research proposals. In order to support academic work that addresses our challenges and opportunities while producing generalizable knowledge, Facebook is pleased to offer six research awards of up to $50K each. Awards will be made as unrestricted gifts to the principal investigator’s host university.

Requirements

Proposals should include

  • A 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 draft budget description (1 page) Include an approximate cost of the project and explanation of how funds would be spent.
  • Curriculum Vitae: 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.
  • Keyword: Please tag your submission with 1-2 keywords to help us route your proposal to the appropriate reviewers.

Eligibility

  • Awards must comply with applicable US and international laws, regulations and policies.
  • Applicants must be current faculty at an accredited academic institution or researchers at a research institute or non-profit organization.
  • Applicants must be the Principal Investigator on any resulting award.

Terms & Conditions

Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to this solicitation, including interpretation of these Terms and awards at any time. All items apply unless otherwise stated in each RFP. Please Read These Terms Carefully Before Proceeding.

  • By submitting this 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.

EVENT ATTENDANCE

If Facebook is offering event attendance and related travel to grant recipients, the specific travel benefits, travel dates and additional details (collectively, “Travel Benefits”) will be provided by Facebook to the grant recipient. Any Travel Benefits are subject to the terms set forth herein and at Sponsor’s sole discretion. Event dates and associated travel dates will be determined in Facebook’s sole discretion. Facebook will contact all event attendees to coordinate Travel Benefits. Any taxes (federal, state, provincial, and local) and other costs and expenses associated with the Travel Benefits will be the sole responsibility of the academic institution and/or attendees, as applicable.

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License

By submitting an RFP, except where prohibited by law, each applicant grants to the Released Parties (defined below) (and their agents, successors, and assigns) the irrevocable, transferable, sublicensable, absolute right and permission to use, edit, modify, copy, reproduce, and distribute applicants’ RFP proposal (with or without reference to each person associated with the RFP) in perpetuity on the internet in any language, throughout the world, for the limited purposes of administering and promoting the RFP, Facebook’s Research program, and publicizing the gift recipients.

General Rules

Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to this RFP, including interpretation of these Terms and award of gifts at any time. Facebook shall have no liability for organizations’ use of any gifts provided hereunder, including any use of gifts not in connection with the RFP.

All grant funds or other benefits 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. Gifts may not be transferred (a) to any individual, entity, or country prohibited by any applicable U.S. or non-U.S. export controls and trade sanctions; (b) to anyone on U.S. or non-U.S. government restricted parties lists; or (c) for any purpose prohibited by applicable export controls and trade sanctions, including nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, or missile technology applications without the required government authorizations. You acknowledge that Facebook is subject to U.S. economic restrictions and trade sanctions. As such, Facebook reserves the right to deny distribution of any gift when required by applicable law. The applicants agree to comply with all applicable laws and regulations during throughout the RFP and while using any funds that may be received by Facebook.

Applicants agree not to accept an award made by Facebook if (a) it would interfere with their official duties, (b) it does not comply with applicable regulations, policies, and rules of applicant’s institution, or applicable laws, regulations, rules, judgments, and orders of any court or governmental authority; or (c) it conflicts with any other obligation the applicant or applicant’s institution have to any other party. Applicant also shall not perform any official action to improperly benefit Facebook.

Applicants acknowledge that they may not use Facebook’s logos or trademarks without prior written approval. All requests for use of the Facebook name or trademark must be submitted via the online form available at www.facebookbrand.com/requests.

LIMITATION OF LIABILITY

EACH PARTICIPATING INDIVIDUAL AND ORGANIZATION AND EACH OF ITS AGENTS AND REPRESENTATIVES, AGREES TO RELEASE AND HOLD HARMLESS FACEBOOK, INC. AND ITS SUBSIDIARY COMPANIES, AFFILIATES, DIVISIONS, FRANCHISEES, REPRESENTATIVES, CONSULTANTS, SUB-CONTRACTORS, SUPPLIERS, DISTRIBUTORS, LEGAL COUNSEL, ADVERTISING, PUBLIC RELATIONS, PROMOTIONAL, FULFILLMENT AND MARKETING AGENCIES, AND RFP PARTNERS (COLLECTIVELY, THE “RELEASED PARTIES”) FOR ANY LIABILITY WHATSOEVER ASSOCIATED WITH PARTICIPATION IN THIS RFP.

Disclaimers

Released Parties are not responsible and/or liable for any of the following: any delivery failure or other error in RFP-related correspondence, transmission or materials; technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the RFP or the processing of applications; or any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from applicant’s participation in the RFP. Without limiting any other provision of these Terms, no Released Party is responsible or liable for any injury or damage to the persons or property of applicants or any third party based on use by such party of any RFP submission made available as part of this RFP. Without limiting any other provision in these Terms, the Released Parties are not responsible or liable to any applicant for any inability to proceed with the RFP or failure to provide a gift or any part thereof, in the event that any of the RFP activities or Facebook’s operations or activities are affected, as determined by Facebook, by any cause or event beyond the sole and reasonable control of Facebook.

Disputes/Governing Law

Except where prohibited by law, any and all disputes, claims, and causes of action between an applicant and any Released Party arising out of or connected with this RFP or these Terms must be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action or legal action on behalf of any group. Further, in any such dispute, under no circumstances will an applicant be permitted or entitled to obtain awards for, and hereby waives all rights to claim punitive, incidental or consequential damages, or any other damages, including attorneys’ fees, other than the applicant’s actual out-of-pocket expenses (if any), not to exceed ten dollars ($10) and each applicant further waives all rights to have damages multiplied or increased.
Except where prohibited by law, this RFP and any dispute arising under these Terms or related to these Terms or the RFP (whether for breach of contract, tortious conduct, or otherwise) will be governed by the internal laws of the State of California, U.S.A., without giving effect to its conflicts of law or choice of law principles or rules that would cause the application of the laws of any other jurisdiction. Except where prohibited by law, any legal actions, suits or proceedings related to this RFP (whether for breach of contract, tortious conduct, or otherwise) will be brought exclusively in the state or federal courts located in or having jurisdiction over San Mateo County, California, U.S.A., and each applicant accepts and submits to the personal jurisdiction of those courts with respect to any legal actions, suits or proceedings arising out of or related to this RFP.