About the African Digital Democracy Observatory (ADDO) Research Grant 2022
Do you want to ramp-up your research into now foreign influence operations or disinformation campaigns are contributing to armed conflict or violent polarization across Africa? The African Digital Democracy Observatory (ADDO) is offering research grants and technical support for evidence-driven analysis into how malign actors are using coordinated disinformation and propaganda or other influence/information operations to fuel conflict across 21 African countries.
The research fellowships come with a grant of $5,000 to $10,000 per project, along with additional access to African Digital Democracy Observatory forensic analysts, data scientists and open source intelligence (OSINT) researchers, as well as to machine learning tools for social listening or data/network analysis.
The 21 focus countries include sub-Saharan Africa’s key economic/political hubs, as well as countries experiencing civil war, insurgencies, insurrections or other forms armed conflict, or that are used as launchpads for destabilizing neighboring countries. The focus countries are: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
The research fellowships are intended to help domain experts turn existing preliminary insights/evidence or raw data into substantive public research reports or discussion documents that shines new light on how foreign state agencies or interest groups (such as state-affiliated private military companies, disinformation/surveillance operators or extractive companies) are using using hybrid warfare techniques to spearhead state/policy capture or to subvert democratic governance by polarizing African societies and undermining public trust in democratic institutions or processes.
Selected fellows will be invited to share their research at ADDO seminars or international events.
Why is ADDO offering research grants?
The fellowships have been established because detailed evidence and/or actionable insights about how disinformation techniques or networks are being deployed is scarce in Africa. This hampers traditional civil society watchdogs or investigative media from proactively exposing and debunking campaigns. ADDO Fellows’ research is therefore intended to help African media and CSOs better understand hybrid warfare and information disorder in their country/region.
Proposals that aim to publish actionable data or insights for media/CSOs to build on will be prioritised, including research that helps identify disinformation narratives with credible data-driven evidence, or that spotlights the actors and other forces responsible for creating and spreading disinformation.
Grant recipients will be required to publish their finding in easily accessible formats. ADDO is therefore most interested in research proposals that aim to produce:
- Series of short reports (500w–1,000w) modelled on journalistic analysis (see examples elsewhere on the ADDO website).
- Infographic explainers that unpack complex issues for lay audiences.
- Datasets containing actionable information or lexicons or watchlists for researchers, media or CSOs to use for their own analysis.
- Presentations designed to showcase research at conferences or to peer groups.
- Academically-focused preprint or peer reviewed papers for public feedback and citation.
Where will my research be published?
Fellows’ research output will be published with their home institutions, as well as on the ADDO website. ADDO will also collaborate with research partners to identify and publish in relevant high-impact, mass-audience media or industry journals. Research can also be published as pre-print papers.
Depending on the research output, and the report format, the fellows may present their findings at public events or on broadcast media (as guest speakers) rather than in print media. As a principle, ADDO will strive for syndication or multiple publications, to maximize impact.
Who can apply?
Individual researchers, multidisciplinary teams, or research organizations that work in African countries, or that are affiliated with African-based partners can apply. This includes post-doc or other senior researchers, early-career researchers who have substantive published work, investigative journalists/analysts, or OSINT researchers who are affiliated with an institution (supported by a letter confirming oversight) with domain expertise on disinformation or other information disorder issues.
All applications will be evaluated by an ADDO review committee.
This call-for-proposals is intended to be a fast-track and lightweight support mechanism for researchers. Proposals that focus on generating rapid and/or iterative outputs will be prioritised for this initial call (future calls will accommodate more complex or longer research projects). Proposals will be evaluated using the following criteria:
- 25 points: The strength of the research topic and supporting evidence. Does it address issues of substantive national/regional interest in the target countries; does it offer fresh insights/evidence that will aid civic watchdogs; is the evidence accessible and compelling?
- 25 points: The capacity/expertise of the researcher/team. Does the researcher have demonstrable technical expertise or domain knowledge; is the researcher affiliated with an institution with a track-record for substantive evidence-based analysis; is there clear commitment to global best-practices for research ethics/data management?
- 20 points: The feasibility of the proposal. Is the research topic and methodology feasible within the proposed project timelines, budget, methodology and research capacity?
- 15 points: The envisioned format for the research outputs. Will the proposed format/s be widely accessible for civic watchdogs such as the media and CSOs and other researchers; will it include infographic/visual explanations; will the research package include data or other evidence for watchdogs to analyse; will the research format be appropriate for some form of peer review?
- 15 points: Commitment to knowledge sharing. Does the researcher have a track-record for sharing technical insights on methodologies/technologies used in the analysis; is there a commitment to transforming the research and/or methodology into replicable resources; is there a commitment to open data, open knowledge standards?
The application process
The application process uses rolling deadlines, with proposals reviewed and shortlisted as they are submitted, with a final cut-off date of 15 October 2022.
The envisioned roadmap will be:
- Submit your elevator pitch using this simple form.
- Submit a more detailed proposal if invited.
- Commence the research fellowship, with technical support from ADDO’s forensic analysis and machine learning teams.
- Present initial/iterative research insights/findings at ADDO seminars and other industry events.
- Publish final research report on a publicly accessible platform, and present the results at appropriate public fora.
Applications in Arabic, English or French are eligible. The research results any be published in any of the three languages, as well as local indigenous African languages if appropriate.
Who manages and funds ADDO?
The African Digital Democracy Observatory (ADDO) is the only continent-wide research coalition focused on understanding how disinformation and influence/information operations are being used to subvert African democracies or watchdog institutions. The initiative is member-driven, consisting of 13 organizations that run substantive Africa-focused analytical research or investigations. Find out more about ADDO’s activities and members here.
ADDO is led by Code for Africa (CfA), the continent’s largest network of civic technology and data journalism labs, with teams in 21 countries. CfA builds digital democracy solutions that give citizens unfettered access to actionable information that empowers them to make informed decisions, and that strengthens civic engagement for improved public governance and accountability. This includes building and managing investigative and analytical infrastructure, like the PesaCheck fact-checking initiative, the African Network of Centres for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR), the African Fact Checking Alliance (AFCA), and the AfricanDRONE network of drone journalists, the sensor.AFRICA network of citizen scientists, and the WanaData network of women data scientists/storytellers.
CfA is funded by a variety of organisations including, amongst others, the Deutsche Welle Akademie (DWA) and the International Center for Journalism (ICFJ), the UNDP and UNESCO, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Jigsaw, the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), Meta’s Journalism Programme, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the World Bank, the US State Department, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the BMZ (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development).
This specific fellowship programme is offered by CfA in partnership with two other ADDO member institutions: