Graduate Funding Information Service

May 21, 2020

SSRC Social Data Dissertation Fellowship

Application Deadline: June 16, 2020, 11:59pm EST

Ongoing work at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) over the past several years, including the 2018 “To Secure Knowledge” report, has identified the importance of access to socially-relevant data in order for researchers to address large issues that inform, empower, and protect the public interest. SSRC invites proposals from scholars in the social sciences and related fields for the Social Data Dissertation Fellowship.

SSRC is also offering a Social Data Research Fellowship (same June 16th deadline) for researchers who hold a PhD in a relevant discipline and are based at an institution of higher education (college or university) or a non-profit focused on social research. The link at the bottom of this page will connect you to that award as well.

Both Fellowships will support research projects of up to 12 months in length that are focused on two key areas:

  1. Advancing scholarly research on the role of social media in elections and democracy, with an emphasis on the 2020 US elections, including local, state, and/or national primary or general elections. Topics may include (but are not limited to) disinformation, polarization, election integrity, political engagement, political advertising, microtargeting, voter suppression, forms of algorithmic bias related to elections, the impact of news reporting and changes to the media ecosystem, or other related areas. Research that explores more than one social media platform or the relationship between social media platforms is particularly welcome, as is research that explores the disproportionate effects on the political participation of women and under-represented groups.
  2. Expanding best practices and methods for accessing and analyzing relevant data that can inform our understanding of the impact of social media on democracy, including (but not limited to) new methods of data collection and sharing; exploring implications for data privacy and ethics; alternative proxy data to inform our broader understanding of proprietary social media data; and ethnographic, journalistic, or other qualitative approaches to data collection.

This grant opportunity’s primary emphasis is related to social media and the 2020 elections, as described above; however applications that investigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as it intersects with the core themes outlined above are particularly encouraged. For example, explorations of policy debates, news, or disinformation circulated via social media on topics relevant to the 2020 US elections and amplified by circumstances related to Covid-19—such as vote-by-mail debates, health care policy, Covid-19 disinformation campaigns related to the election, and so on—are welcome.

For the Social Data Dissertation Fellowship, eligible expenses include (but are not limited to):

  • salary support or stipend;
  • tuition payment or reimbursement;
  • project-related travel (applicants should estimate transportation, lodging, and per diem);
  • other associated research costs, including costs for data collection; and
  • equipment (no more than 10% of the overall budget).


  • The Social Data Dissertation Fellowship program is open to PhD students who are actively enrolled in a PhD program, who may apply for awards of up to $15,000 US in support of dissertation research. Applicants to the program should have completed all PhD coursework by the beginning of the fellowship term.
  • Applicants whose primary research affiliation is to a partisan organization are not eligible, nor are projects with a primarily partisan rather than scientific objective.
  • Applicants should be prepared to provide evidence that their research project will be reviewed by a Common Rule-compliant University Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the international equivalent. However, IRB review is not required at the time of application.

For more information about the Social Data Dissertation Fellowship & the Social Data Research Fellowship, including how to apply, click here.