Mozilla Research Grants are a program to help us keep the Internet safe, open, and accessible to all, as it evolves. Where appropriate, we are particularly looking for proposals that support our aim to grow an internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.
For the 2019H2 funding series, we will be accepting proposals to answer seven specific research questions. We absolutely recognize the value of research outside of these domains and research questions, but for this round we will only accept funding for work in these categories. These are the research questions:
RQ1. Indian and Indonesian Perceptions of Privacy & Security. How do different cultures perceive privacy and security, especially in India and Indonesia? How do Indian and Indonesian mobile users perceive the product value of privacy and security, and what are specific or unique opportunities for privacy and security products within these markets?
RQ2. Better protection for vulnerable citizens in a culture of civic surveillance. As methods of civic surveillance become more widespread and sophisticated, the potential negative impact of these activities on marginalized, stigmatized, and otherwise vulnerable populations will grow. How can we better protect vulnerable citizens in the context of mass surveillance? Are there novel, effective ways to enable safety and personal autonomy in this new civic reality?
RQ3. How do we understand informed consent to data collection? Mozilla is enthusiastic about the opportunities for open data-driven innovation, as current closed data processes reinforce existing power structures and decrease competition and better user experiences. Given the problems of open data sharing, such as questions of quality, privacy and ethics, what new creative commons licensing should be developed to better facilitate safe and usable open data sharing?
RQ4. Automated detection of website breakage from content blocking. Mozilla is pursuing strong tracking protection for all Firefox users. Tracking protection can often cause websites to break in ways that are unpredictable and difficult to discover using automated techniques. Our current approach to detecting broken websites--a largely manual process which relies on user-generated reports--provides a slow feedback loop that greatly prolongs our deployment timelines. How can we automate the process of discovering broken sites? Are there reliable indicators that we can use to detect when a page isn’t rendering correctly, or when a button is unresponsive? Can we discover breakage with web crawlers, or do we need to run user studies?
RQ5. Improving the video experience. Video is the biggest use of raw bandwidth on the internet. It’s not a coincidence that it’s also a major use of the browser on desktops and laptops, as well as a significant minority of use on mobile platforms where people might prefer not to install more single-use apps. How can we better understand what video services people are watching, how they’re watching video, and what’s the best experience we could provide for those services? Are users who like to watch video in their browser more or less engaged with other browser-based experiences? Does consuming media in Firefox relate to other browsing use patterns? How could Firefox be the best browser for video and media consumers by providing features they’d especially value?
RQ6. Automatic conversational agent creation. How can one build a text-to-text, task-based conversational agent in which task functionality, e.g. booking a concert ticket at the Metropolitan Opera, is automatically created from web pages already providing that functionality, e.g. you could buy tickets purely through a text based conversation using a task derived from the existing non-voice enabled Metropolitan Opera page?
RQ7. Futures for open voice ecosystems. Each time a new technology is enabled and a new ecosystem is created a range of social, cultural and political ripple effects typically unfold over time. The introduction of mobile devices in diverse socio-economic contexts has for instance enabled the creation of entire peer-to-peer lending industries and economies. In a less positive way, the introduction of social media in everyday life has arguably enabled a wide range of socio-cultural as well as socio-political effects, such as “echo-chambers” and rigged elections, for instance. Given that, what type of social, cultural or political impacts can we imagine occurring in the future as a consequence of us introducing an open voice ecosystem? Is there any unwanted future state that we should be mindful of and prepared for? What positive effects do we wish to unfold or trigger through such an ecosystem?
Our aim with this program is to support Mozilla’s research efforts, rather than to generally fund research on the internet. In the absence of a strong tie to current research, historically there are a few approaches we’re unlikely to fund:
We generally don’t fund the development of new open source projects through Mozilla Research Grants, except for cases where we specifically request as such. We are looking to fund the creation of new research knowledge in the world, and in some cases this may involve releasing open source code, but that can't be the primary aim of the proposal.
We generally don’t fund proposals to improve the state of closed ecosystems, such as app stores.
We generally don’t fund studies of particular populations using or not using technologies, unless those are tied to very particular Mozilla goals.
We don’t fund development of ongoing open source (or closed source) programs, except as specified in the research questions: such programs should go through MOSS.
Your first step should be to read through the whole submission form, well in advance, so you know what you're going to need to do. We expect you to put together a clear, coherent expression of your problem, the approach you're taking to solve that problem, and the solution you hope to achieve. You might want to think of this as a business plan for your research effort. What's the minimum level of success you're hoping to achieve and what's the best case? How will you know how successful you are? How many people will be impacted by what you do if you’re successful? What would happen if you didn’t do this research?
Make sure that someone who isn't an expert in your field can understand your project, and make sure that someone who is an expert in your field can understand what you're doing that's new.
You should make sure that you explicitly cover these criteria: viability, alignment, value, and impact.
viability: how likely is it that you will be able to execute on what you plan?
alignment: how well is this project aligned with the specific request?
value: is this project good value for money?
impact: how much will this project impact the world? how many people will it impact? what would happen if you don't do this project?
Incorporating a plan for ongoing engagement with Mozilla is a great plus, as we’ve found the most successful projects are those with strong ongoing interactions. If there are Mozilla data sources you would like to collaborate around, such as Firefox, Common Voice, or survey data, please specify that in the proposal.
What limitations are there for this funding?
Applications must be affiliated with a university, research institute, or research-focused registered non-profit, in any country except for those embargoed by the US State Department. Gifts are awarded to those institutions; we cannot award them to unaffiliated individuals. You must include a plan for disseminating the results, which would normally include publication in a peer-reviewed and open-access venue, and we encourage you to make those publications, results, code, and/or data publicly accessible. We will pay open-access fees for not-for-profit publishers included in your budget. Please acknowledge Mozilla's support in your publication, and send it to us when it gets published. We particularly encourage you to further publish your work in a format more accessible to the public, like blog posts or articles in the popular press. Send us those, too! We will ask for roughly two status updates a year.
Any lead researcher can only send in one application to answer one research question. There may be a team of multiple people who will work on a given application, but you need to identify the lead researcher as a point of contact. If you are the lead researcher on another application, you can be part of the team on another application, but you cannot submit multiple applications to answer multiple RQs.
University-affiliated applicants can be students or faculty; students will require a letter from their advisor. Funding amounts are set at $40,000 including all expenses. We expect the timescale for most projects, not counting final publications, to be around one year, although that is only a guideline. We strongly encourage ongoing collaboration with Mozilla over the entire course of the grant.
As part of our commitment to diversity, we will fund childcare or similar costs up to 10% of a grant, with a cap of $4000. We particularly encourage applications from new faculty in their first or second years. Funding is given as an unrestricted gift to the institution. We do not pay university overhead.
Please make sure you've checked the Questions Page before you start writing your application; you should ask questions through that page, rather than emailing. We will have live online office hours on Thursday, November 7th at 6pm PST in this zoom room, and Monday, November 18th at 9am PST in this zoom room.
The submission deadline is Friday, November 22nd at 2:22pm Pacific Standard Time (PST). We will have an automatic 24 hour extension for any saved grants in progress at that time, but there will be no other extensions. The next deadline will be announced in the Spring of 2020; please sign up for our mailing list if you wish to be notified.
When you're ready to begin, hit the big Start button at the top right.