Social Media and Democracy Research Grants

Funding Agency:
Social Science Research Council

The longstanding study of media effects on democracy and elections has taken on new resonance with the rise of social media platforms, the dramatic change in the business model of traditional news media, changes in advertising infrastructure, and increasingly globalized and interconnected communications. Recent revelations about the unintended disclosure of industry data and spread of disinformation across national borders make clear the need to better understand the impact of social media on society.

Proposals for the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants should examine the impact of social media and related digital technologies on democracy and elections, generate insights to inform policy at the intersection of media, technology, and democracy, and advance new avenues for future research. This initiative seeks to study these processes in an independent, transparent, and ethical way according to the highest standards of data privacy and academic research, to improve the lives of all.

Researchers whose proposals are selected for support will receive research funding via the Social Science Research Council and access to Facebook data via Social Science One. The first dataset is a database of Facebook URL shares; details about these data, including the codebook can be found at the Social Science One Dataverse repository.


Deadline: Rolling submissions

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

The Social Media and Democracy Research Grant Program invites applications from researchers worldwide who wish to access privacy-preserving data from Facebook and who are committed to developing a sound and credible knowledge-base of research on the role of social media in elections and in democracy more generally.

Proposals reviewed beginning on August 9, 2018 are for the purpose of analyzing the Facebook URL Shares dataset within the initial scope of research (see below). Data documentation, the availability of new datasets, and expansions in allowable research scope, can be found, and will be updated, at SocialScience.One. When available, applicants may apply for access to more than one dataset in a proposal, always through the SSRC grant application process. 

The initial research scope includes observational (i.e, for now, non-experimental) research studying the effect of social media and related digital technologies on democracy and elections. This may include disinformation, polarization, election integrity, civic engagement, political advertising, or other related areas. The goal of such research should be to better understand the effect of social media and other digital technologies, and to investigate fundamental scientific questions concerning political communication in the digital age. The focus for this initial RFP should not be investigating internal corporate policies, decisions, or product development, and it should be for scientific purposes, not for purposes of advocacy, journalism, investigation of individuals, or research for competitors. Proposals must engage with questions of realworld, practical importance. 

Eligibility Requirements

Applications are welcome from university researchers (or collaborative teams that include scholars from elsewhere, so long as the PI is a university-affiliated researcher) who:

– hold a PhD in a relevant discipline;

– hold a formal affiliation with an institution of higher education, and can submit the proposal with the support of that institution as the Principal Investigator (see Letter of Support, below);

– provide evidence that the proposed activities have been approved by a Common Rulecompliant University Institutional Review Board (IRB), federally approved IRB, or international equivalent, or meets the required criteria to delay IRB approval in order to receive financial assistance in doing so (for more details, see Award Information, above);

– have a clear research plan addressing the thematic issues of the grant program. 

Eligible applicants may only request access to datasets available at the time of application. However, the Principal Investigator listed on any application may only submit one proposal at a time, and may only have one pending proposal at any one time.

Research projects shall not be funded if their primary goal is to aid in the election or defeat of certain candidates or parties.

At this time, proposals must be submitted in English. 

Funding Type



Junior Faculty
Post Doctoral Fellows


Social Sciences