Announcing the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants

There is exciting news about the Social Data Initiative (SDI) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), which is not only studying important dynamics in our society, but has the potential to shape the future of the social sciences.

We launched the SDI in April to provide the social science research community with secure, reliable access to proprietary social media data.

Today SSRC President Alondra Nelson announced, with Professors Gary King and Nate Persily, the first Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants competition.

In collaboration with Social Science One (SS1), an entity developed by Professors King and Persily, Facebook will make data available to independent social science researchers for the first time.

Through the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants competition the SSRC will independently administer research funding, lead the peer review and data ethics review process, and work with SS1 to manage the research. We are proud to work with SS1 to make this important project a reality. Their direct role in handling the data and liaising with Facebook helps to ensure that all-important review and funding decisions remain independent of the company.

The SSRC has engaged with SS1 in accordance with the core commitments of the SDI: the highest standards of academic scholarship, data privacy, harnessing the perspectives leading scholars from diverse geographies and backgrounds, and mobilizing knowledge for the public good.

While there is no shortage of scholarly work on social media, the SDI has the potential to enable an unprecedented scale and scope of research. Scholars from all over the world, working with the same data and asking a broad set of questions about democracy and elections offers an opportunity to both build fields of study and come to meaningful conclusions about social processes globally.

The SSRC extends its appreciation to the diverse group of funders who made the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants competition possible: Laura and John Arnold Foundation, The Democracy Fund, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Charles Koch Foundation, Omidyar Network, and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

This vanguard project continues the SSRC’s ninety-five year tradition of marrying the endurance of rigorous social science with the flexibility of our skillset and the vision to apply it for the public good. Interested researchers are encouraged to submit proposals at apply.ssrc.org.