The Mercury Project

The information networks that carry public health guidance into communities are among the most essential elements in a disease outbreak response. However, in today’s information ecosystem, accurate information is not getting through to everyone, everywhere. The viral spread of mis- and disinformation has been widely acknowledged in the global health space as a major and growing threat to public safety and to effective pandemic response.

The Mercury Project, which alludes to the ancient Roman god Mercury of messages and communication, will fund researchers to discover new, evidence-based, data-driven tools, methods, and interventions to counter mis- and disinformation and to support the spread and uptake of accurate health information. These solutions will be an essential resource for social media and technology companies and for global policymakers as they build an information ecosystem that supports the sharing of accurate and effective health information.

The Mercury Project invites letters of inquiry for research projects that address one or more of the following goals:

1)  estimating the causal impacts of mis- and disinformation on online and offline outcomes in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, including health, economic, and/or social outcomes, differential impacts across sociodemographic groups, and quantifying the global costs of those impacts;

2) estimating the causal impacts of online or offline interventions in the United States, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America to increase uptake of Covid-19 vaccines and other recommended public health measures by countering mis- and disinformation, including interventions that target the producers or the consumers of mis- and disinformation, or that increase confidence in reliable information.

Proposed projects may have a duration of up to 30 months. Primary applicant organizations must be tax-exempt organizations or the equivalent in the local context (e.g., nonprofit organizations, universities, governmental units). Preference will be given to research teams that are interdisciplinary and that include a diverse set of researchers and institutions, including researchers and institutions located in the country in which the study is being conducted and that have deep contextual knowledge and connections. For proposals that seek to evaluate the causal impacts of offline interventions, preference will be given to projects that engage local public, nonprofit, and/or private organizations, and that propose interventions likely to be cost-effective at scale. Proposed budgets should be appropriate to cover project costs, with indirect costs not exceeding 15% of direct costs. There is no maximum award amount.

Letters of inquiry will be reviewed by Mercury Project staff and, as needed, outside reviewers. Applicants whose LOIs are reviewed favorably will be invited to submit a full proposal. Full proposals will be reviewed by project staff and by outside peer reviewers with methodological and domain expertise. Proposals for randomized controlled trials of interventions in the United States may be shared with Arnold Ventures for co-funding consideration. Applicants may be asked to respond to questions from reviewers. Decisions will be made on a rolling basis. Every effort will be made to expedite the proposal review process.

Letters of inquiry should be submitted through the Social Science Research Council's online application portal at Please contact if you have additional questions or for further guidance in preparing your submission.

Duke faculty interested in applying should contact Alexandra de Havilland ( for institutional/team coordination and proposal guidance.

Funding Type
Sponsor: Rolling