Information Controls Fellowship

The Information Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) cultivates research, outputs, and creative collaboration at different levels and across institutions on the topic of information controls -- specifically repressive Internet censorship and surveillance.
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Setting the stage

The ICFP fellowship supports examination into how governments in countries, regions, or areas of OTF’s core focus are restricting the free flow of information, cutting access to the open internet, and implementing censorship mechanisms, thereby threatening the ability of global citizens to exercise basic human rights and democracy and mitigation of these threats.

The 2017 ICFP application window will be open from February 6, 2017 until March 19, 2017. You can stay up to date on all OTF submission deadlines and open submissions windows for other potential funders by joining the OTF-announce mailing list. To join, please send a message via this page with “subscribe” in the subject line.

The program offers two tiers of fellowships:

  • Senior Fellows

    A six month or one year fellowship usually offered to experienced researchers many times with postdoctoral or doctoral students and with demonstrated ability and expertise. Fellows are given a monthly stipend of $4,200 USD per month, as well as a travel stipend of $2,500 or $5,000 USD depending on the length.

  • Seasonal Fellows

    A three month fellowship usually offered to students and/or junior practitioners. Seasonal fellows are awarded monthly stipends of $2,500.

Typically, ICFP fellows have experience in fields such as computer science, engineering, information security research, software development, social sciences, law, and data visualization, among others. Information controls is a cross-disciplinary field, so applications are open to people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines and can include students and junior to mid-career practitioners. Please find OTF’s fellows from round one, round two and round three.

Applicants can propose to work with the organization of their choice. This includes both the organizations listed below and those not listed. Regardless, justification will need to be provided in the application. You can find detailed descriptions of host organizations we’ve worked with previously here. While fellows are ideally able to work locally within their host organization, applicants who wish to work remotely will also be considered.

The ICFP fellowship program offers fellows the freedom to pursue their own specialized project while maintaining a sense of community, open communication, and feedback between the other fellows as well as the broader OTF community. The group has also convened annually at the Citizen Lab Summer Institute, offering ICFP fellows a chance to network and further collaborate.

Thought starters

Fellowships are OTF initiatives that support individuals who advance the goals of Internet freedom by creating new knowledge. The Information Controls Fellowship in particular, digs into the ways in which repressive governments restrict the free flow of information, debilitate the open internet, and threaten human rights and democracy.

Good ideas
  • Development and refinement of tools and techniques to continuously monitor internet interference on a global scale
  • Investigating information controls, security, and privacy in a range of popular applications including search engines, social media platforms, and instant messaging clients
  • Testing creative methods of censorship circumvention
  • Examination of the impact of internet censorship and use of circumvention tools
  • Exploring the impacts of Internet censorship and use of circumvention tools
  • Experimental techniques to limit pro-government manipulation of online discussions
  • Analysis of targeted threats against civil society organizations, including Internet filtering, denial of service attacks, and targeted malware
  • Other novel ideas and approaches relating to the study of global and regional information controls
Bad ideas
  • A focus on countries with minimal information controls
  • Working with a host organization you are already affiliated with
  • Security reviews of software limited to technical audiences
  • Projects better suited for the Digital Integrity Fellowship Program
  • Testing of end user connections that violate established ethical principles
  • Network or cryptographic protocols better suited for the Core Infrastructure Initiative

Review and selection process

Important considerations

  • Projects should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the mission of promoting freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online. Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable and achievable with activities and milestones listed monthly. The overall project goals should extend beyond traditional audiences.

  • For the duration of both senior and seasonal fellowships, the fellow will be expected to work full time with their host organization.

  • Before completing a submission, we strongly encourage you to review our Terms of Service.

  • If you have any questions at all, please contact us [email protected]

The Application Process

Step 1: The Application

When we make a public call for applications, which we call a request, you must fill out the fellowship application by the deadline indicated. In your application, you must designate a host organization, whether listed or non-listed, who will take part in the reviewing process.

Your applications must be submitted, using the OTF website, no later than 23:59 (11:59PM) GMT on March 19, 2017. We do not accept applications submitted via any other form.

Step 2: The Review Process

Your application is reviewed by OTF staff, your host organization, and/or additional partners. At this phase, we may contact you to get additional information.

If your application is accepted, we then invite you to submit a proposal, which you will work with your host organization to complete. Once submitted, your proposal will undergo another review process which will include OTF staff, and your host organization. We typically contact you with feedback about your submitted proposal. Once the applicant has addressed this feedback, the ICFP Advisory Council (a subset of those listed here) will review the proposal. Following this, the OTF team will make a final determination on whether to award the applicant an information controls fellowship.

Alternative Sources of Support

Please note, in some cases, we may value your idea but for, numerous reasons, may not be able to support it. If this happens, we will refer you to alternative sources of support.

Step 3: The Contract

If your application is accepted, you will be issued a contract which must be signed and returned to OTF.

Review panel

Award information

OTF awards are performance-based contracts between RFA and the applicant with payment occurring through a monthly stipend subject to approval each month by the OTF Program Manager and supporting host organization. OTF reserves the right to award less or more than the funds described under such circumstances as it may deem to be in the best interest of the program priorities.

Project and Budget Periods

OTF fellowship contracts are 3, 6 or 12 months in duration. From time to time OTF may consider applications to extend existing contracts beyond the initial project period. Any such decision will be subject to availability of funds, satisfactory progress of the applicants, and a determination that continued funding would be in the best interest of program priorities.

Monitoring & Evaluations

OTF views monitoring and evaluation as a way to learn from our fellows and share lessons learned with future applicants. This improves the collective knowledge of the community and thus contributes to its sustainability.

Because payment is dispersed at monthly intervals upon completion of stated contractual goals, successful applicants can expect regular contact with both their host organization and OTF project manager. Monitoring consists of compulsory monthly reports and also phone, email, or in-person discussions and consultations as needed. Fellows are required to submit brief monthly updates about their work to OTF, their host organization, and the OTF community. This allows others to review and comment on the ICFP community’s work, encouraging collaboration.

The adviser or responsible person at the host organization, in turn, provides a “traffic light” report to OTF evaluating their fellow’s progress. This report, detailed below, is the basis upon which stipend payments are released to fellows on a monthly basis.

A “green light” from the host organization signals that the fellow is on track and funds can be released. A “yellow light” from the host organization signals that while funds should be released, there are some concerns that need to be flagged to OTF. A “red light” from the host organization signals that progress has been interrupted and an intervention is required. The host organization recommends “stop payment” and OTF, the host organization, and the fellows discuss possible remedial steps to either get back on track or terminate the fellowship.

Application requirements, submission, and deadlines

  • Individuals of all ages irrespective of nationality or residency;
  • Individuals who demonstrate skill and ability to assist in efforts to overcome information controls.
  • Individuals who demonstrate a desire to grow their knowledge and skills through a collaborative, cross-discipline approach.
  • Individuals who demonstrate a commitment to reach audiences outside the research community

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