Announcing the Internet Policy Observatory’s

Research for Impact

Report Series


Call For Proposals: Joint Digital Rights and Internet Freedom Research/Advocacy Projects

Within the constellation of actors engaged in internet policy and digital rights debates, academics are uniquely positioned to mobilize evidence-based research for advocacy and policymaking. However, the research conducted within academic communities is often siloed within disciplinary spaces and only occasionally produced in collaboration with activists and with impact objectives in mind.

The Internet Policy Observatory at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania invites organizations and individuals to apply for funding for research projects that have specific and tangible policy & advocacy impact objectives. Individual or joint applications are encouraged from civil society organizations, those working in digital rights advocacy and policymaking, and those engaged in academic research. The goal of this call for proposals is to generate collaborative research projects on topics of relevance to the internet freedom community that are empirically rigorous as well as pertinent to current international, regional, or local digital rights advocacy efforts.


Applications should propose a research project that would provide empirical weight and further advocacy efforts in an area related to digital rights and internet freedoms. Topics of relevance include but are not limited to access to online resources, freedom of expression online, the economic and social effects of internet policies, ICT companies and human rights, privacy and surveillance online. Applicants should be able to justify the need for the research and are expected to produce a set of deliverables that are relevant to academic, advocacy, and policymaking communities.

The organizing committee will accept several categories of applications. These include:

  • Individual academics looking to partner with a relevant advocacy organization to integrate his/her research into current advocacy campaigns or policymaking debates
  • Civil Society organizations currently engaged in advocacy campaigns that seek to identify a research partner able to operationalize a particular research question of interest/relevance to the organization’s current work.
  • Joint applications between a researcher/research team and one organization engaged in advocacy, activism, or policymaking. Joint applications can come from newly established partnerships or from groups that have worked together in the past.

For the first two types of applicants, the IPO team will work with promising individuals and groups who apply after the initial application process to help identify relevant partners and build the project.

Funded projects will be expected to include the following deliverables:

  • An academic paper/report to be submitted for peer review and/or published with the IPO
  • A shorter-form, digestible, media-ready product to be distributed to appropriate stakeholders (policymakers, politicians, the public).
    • Examples include short reports, user guides, primers, infographics, etc.
  • A publicity plan for impact: How will your team publicize the findings amongst relevant stakeholders to maximize policy and advocacy impact. This can include a media plan, small launch event or private meeting with stakeholders, among other ideas.

Application Process:

 The IPO invites applications on a rolling basis. The closing date for all applications for review will be April 30. Applications should include a concept note between 3-5 pages.

For joint applications with an identified research party and advocacy organization. The concept note should include:

  • A section describing research need and relevance to various policymaking debates & the organization’s current campaigns
  • Short descriptions of the applicants and past work
  • Description of Research Methodology
  • Description of both academic and advocacy deliverables
  • Impact plan (see above)
  • Budget:
    • The budget can include costs associated with conducting the research (travel, specialized software, access to database, stipend for the researcher’s time) as well as costs associated with the impact deliverable (travel for a public event, graphic design, etc). The budget can be divided in any way that makes sense to accomplish both deliverables. One individual or organization should be prepared to receive the funds. Overhead expenses should not be included.
    • Please note that the funding range for projects will be between $8,000-$15,000 per project, and this funding range should be considered when determining project scope. Please keep in mind that this funding is considered seed funding for pilot projects that could eventually build into larger collaborations.

For applications from individual academic parties:

  • A section describing research need and relevance to various internet policymaking debates
  • Short biographies of the applicant(s) including past research
  • Description of research methodology
  • Description of research deliverable
  • Suggestions for ways in which this research could be modified for impact in specific local, national, or international internet policymaking debates or advocacy campaigns.
  • Budget for research component alone:
    • The budget can include costs associated with conducting the research (travel, specialized software, access to database, stipend for the researcher’s time).
    • Please note that the funding range for research will be between $1000-$5,000 per project, and should be considered when determining project scope. Exceptions will be made for research projects that may require additional resources for specific purposes (cost of datasets, server space, extensive travel, etc).

For applications from individual advocacy organizations:

  • A section describing a current research need that would advance the organization’s existing advocacy campaigns.
  • Short description of the organization and current advocacy work
  • Description of envisioned project, including impact deliverable and publicity plan (see above)
  • Budget:
    • The budget can include estimated costs for conducting research as well as costs for the impact deliverable and publicity plan.
    • Please note that the funding range for these proposals will be between $5000-$10,000 per project.

Applications should be emailed to by 11:00 PM EST on April 30, 2017. For any questions about the application process, please email

Please note that this call for proposals has closed. To see the list of projects supported and published reports, please see Our Research &  The IPO Projects pages.