Call for Proposals: Expanding Online Trust & Safety Research

Call for Proposals: Expanding Online Trust & Safety Research

A new research initiative seeks proposals from researchers studying trust and safety in the majority world. Applications due January 30, 2024
call for proposals


The Stanford Internet Observatory is pleased to announce the launch of a pilot program to support researchers studying issues of online trust and safety in the majority world. The pilot program will seek to fund 6-10 proposals broadly studying issues associated with online safety outside of the North American or Western European context. Given the pilot nature of this program, the committee may chose not to fund any projects any projects in this call. Topics within trust and safety might include, but are not limited to, fraud, harassment, information interference, abusive content, encryption, internet connectivity, child safety and content moderation. This program aims to support research that explores these issues in the majority world. Projects may, for example, investigate online abuse affecting users in underrepresented languages, on non-mainstream devices or platforms, and in diverse political and social contexts. The research should highlight the impact of trust and safety issues on users worldwide.

Trust and safety research is rapidly expanding, drawing on insights from various academic disciplines to comprehend and address online risks. New research will continue to inform our understanding of best practices in the field and the impact of platform design and policy changes on users around the world.

We are open to applications to support either qualitative or quantitative research, or both. We encourage proposals that involve original data collection (such as interviews or surveys) or original data analysis (such as analysis of a specific safety issue in a particular country on a specific platform). We cannot support projects that are exclusively reviews of existing literature. 

Individuals and organizations can submit proposals for up to $15,000. Participants on selected proposals will have opportunities for mentorship and feedback in the form of workshops to build a  community along with individual check-ins. The  project will culminate with a virtual symposium bringing together all the  participants to present their work. Participants are encouraged to submit their research papers to the Journal of Online Trust and Safety or other peer-reviewed publications.

This program is supported by a generous gift from the Omidyar Network.



Researchers must be affiliated with an academic institution, research institution, think tank, NGO, journalistic organization, or civil society organization that will serve as the contracted fundee.

The proposal can include work that is ongoing or incremental to a larger project.


Proposal guidelines

Researchers interested in participating in this program must submit an application form and supplemental materials. Applicants will be asked to provide:

  1. Name(s), title(s) and affiliation(s) of participating researchers
  2. A 2-page, single spaced, font size : 12 summary proposal, structured as follows:
    • Brief motivation for proposed project
    • Research question(s) to be addressed
    • Context: Where will the research take place?
    • Research Methodology (please be as detailed as possible)
    • Brief explanation for why you/your team is qualified to conduct this research
  3. Project Timeline
  4. Itemized Budget which specifies activities that the funding will be used for, such as:
    • Data acquisition (for example, survey implementation costs, transportation costs for interviews)
    • Researcher time


Evaluation criteria

Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • How relevant is this project to the current field of online trust and safety?

  • Will the research question result in new knowledge in the field, either through a novel question or through a new global perspective?

  • How feasible is it for the research team to complete the project in the indicated timeframe?

  • Does the proposed methodology  adequately address the research question(s)?


Timeline and Application

Proposals can be submitted using the link below. All attachments should be in .docx or .pdf format. Application due date is January 30, 2024. Decisions will be announced by March 1, 2024.  For any application related questions, please email

Funding will be disbursed in two phases with 70% of the funding at project start and 30% after submission of the final deliverable.

Application Link


Following is the timeline of the program:


  • Call for Applications —------------------------------November  1, 2023

  • Info Session---------------------------------------December 13, 2024

  • Application Deadline--------------------------------January  30, 2024

  • Decisions Announced---------------------------March 1, 2024

  • Project Commencement—----------------------------April 1, 2024

  • Workshop 1----------------------------------------June, 2024

  • Mid-Point Check-in---------------------------------September, 2024

  • Workshop 2----------------------------------------January, 2025

  • Final Deliverable Submission--------------------------April, 2025






Who is eligible to apply?

Applicants may apply from industry, NGOs, civil society organizations, or academia. For researchers in academia, we defer to your institution’s policies on who may apply for contract opportunities.

Can applicants submit multiple applications?

While we do not pose restrictions on how many projects a single applicant can submit, we strongly prefer that applicants choose just one project to submit to the call. Applicants may be affiliated with more than one proposal. Applicants should not submit the same proposal under multiple names.



What types of mentorship opportunities are offered?

Selected project leads will meet with researchers affiliated with the Stanford Cyber Policy Center for advice and feedback on their work. Selected project leads will also be connected to each other to share input and feedback.

What are the expected deliverables at the end of the project period?

We expect participants on selected proposals to give a final presentation and share a working paper based on the work completed. 

Is there an opportunity to publish in the Journal of Online Trust and Safety?

The Journal of Online Trust and Safety maintains an independent review process for their submissions. While the selected projects are encouraged to submit their papers to the journal, there is no guarantee of publication.



What types of costs can be included in the budget?

Your project budget should cover costs directly related to completing the scope of work. This may include researcher salary, hiring research assistants, data collection, enumerator costs, and institutional overhead. Costs may be split across these categories at the applicants’ discretion. The strongest applications will have clear budget justifications that show how the costs will contribute to the project.

What is the maximum proposal length?

Your proposal summary should be limited to two pages. The budget and timeline do not count towards the two page proposal summary.

Can this funding be used to support ongoing work or combined with other funding?

Yes, we are happy for this contract to support incremental work towards an ongoing project. Your proposal should clearly explain how this funding will fit with other funding and what work will be completed during the 12 months of the project.

Will funding be distributed to the individual applying or to their organization?

We are amenable to both options depending on the preferences and requirements of your organization. We are not able to split the funding across multiple entities.



Should research focus on just one country or many? Do researchers need to be based in the country or countries that are the focus of their research?

Your research proposal should focus on issues that affect users in and/or from the Majority World. Applicants may be based anywhere in the world, including in the Global North. Projects may focus on just one country or may dive into a question that impacts users in a broader region. The project can also adapt a previous study from a Global North context to a Majority World context.

What topics are within scope for the call?

We take a broad view on trust & safety, and are open to any project that relates to potential harms caused by users’ interactions with internet-based technologies, or ways users may develop more confidence in their safe use of technology. Likewise, we are open to projects that look at the use of technology to improve safety or wellbeing.

Do you have preferences for the types of methods used in the research?

We are open to projects that use qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods. Research that is legal or doctrinal is also in scope for the call. We are unlikely to fund research that proposes only to review existing research.

What will make for a strong proposal research question?

Strong proposals will have a narrowly scoped research question that will be feasible to address in the 12 month timeline of the contract.



For academics proposing a project involving human subjects, should applicants have IRB approval before submitting their proposal? 

IRB approval is not required at the time of application, however, it will be viewed favorably in the review process. 

What ethical requirements do you have for proposals from civil society or non-profit organizations?

We encourage you to mention in the proposal what ethical issues may arise from your research, and how you will mitigate potential risks. This could include risks to participants in your research, or broader risks. 

We will follow up with finalists should we have any clarifying questions regarding project ethics and project implementation.