Supporting Usability and Design in Security Fellowship

The Supporting Usability and Design in Security (SUDS) Fellowship aims to make secure open-source internet freedom technologies more user-friendly.
Next deadline: 

Setting the stage

The SUDS fellowship program, jointly administered by OTF and Simply Secure, supports efforts to improve the user experience (UX) design and usability of Internet Freedom technologies through research, tangible improvements to existing technologies, knowledge-building outputs, and increasing understanding of the challenges surrounding user adoption of secure technologies.

The SUDS program offers two tiers of fellowships:

Fellowship tiers

Senior Fellows

  • One year fellowship
  • Usually offered to postdoctoral, doctoral students, and experienced researchers with demonstrated ability and expertise
  • Monthly stipend of $4,200 USD
  • Travel stipend of $4,200 USD

Seasonal Fellows

  • Three to six-month fellowship
  • Usually offered to students, junior practitioners, or senior practitioners on short-term sabbatical
  • Monthly stipend of $2,500 USD
  • No travel stipend
Likely candidates

Typically, SUDS fellows have experience in fields such as usability research; visual, UX, and UI design; human-computer interaction; and front-end development with an emphasis on user interface, among others.

Who are the fellows?

Meet the current class of SUDS fellows!

Current fellows
Where do fellows work?

SUDS fellows embed with a host organization for the duration of their fellowship. You can find a list of existing SUDS host organizations here or propose working with a new organization.

Interested in serving as a host organization? If you are interested in serving as a host organization for the SUDS Fellowship, please email [email protected] In the email, indicate why your organization is well positioned to serve as a host organization for this program. In addition, include your regional focus, level of expertise and capacity, and a short description of your current need that a fellow could assist with.

Simply Secure
Simply Secure
Propose a new organization!
Propose a new organization!
University College London
University College London

Criteria and the application process

For a full rundown of the application process, head here.

When are requests for applications made?

The SUDS Fellowship application window is open once annually.

Note that the application window is currently closed; if you’d like to be notified when this and other OTF application windows open, sign up to join the OTF-announce mailing list.

Potential areas of focus

SUDS fellows seek to solve questions like:

  • Why are certain internet freedom technologies adopted while others are not?
  • How can existing secure internet freedom technologies become easier to use?
  • What are the main barriers to user adoption for secure internet freedom technologies?
  • How can usability be better incorporated and prioritized during the design process?
Important considerations
  • For the duration of both senior and seasonal fellowships, the fellow will be expected to work full time with their host organization.
  • Fellowship contracts can only be made out to individuals, not LLCs or other commercial entities.
  • Before completing a submission, we strongly encourage you to review our Terms of Service.
  • If you have any questions at all, please contact us at [email protected]
  • If you are interested in applying, please review the detailed application instructions below.

Review panel

All SUDS fellowship applications are reviewed by the OTF team; selected applications are also then reviewed by an independent Advisory Council review panel comprised of experts with deep knowledge and insight into UX, security, and design.

Members of the SUDS Advisory Council review panel are:

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.

Application requirements, submission, and deadlines

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 & Evaluation

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 regular 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 and associated milestones, successes, and setbacks to OTF, Simply Secure, their respective host organization, and their SUDS fellowship cohort. This allows others to review and comment on the SUDS 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.

Detailed Application Instructions

Please note: Failure to follow these instructions may lead to your application being rejected out of hand.

First, be sure to review OTF’s mission and focus on internet freedom. If you have any questions at all, please contact us at [email protected]

Summary of necessary application materials

1.  Basic information (name, email address, current affiliation)
2.  Detailed project description (no more than 1-1.5 pages, 5,000 characters maximum) outlining:
        a. Your project idea and how you will make it happen (no more than 1 page, 3,000 characters maximum).
        b. Why you are the right person to do it (no more than 1 page, 3,000 characters maximum).
3.  Your resume or C.V.
4.  The name and contact information of two professional references.
5.  A copy of or links to 2-3 samples of your work (e.g. research papers, if you are a usability researcher, screenshots or interactive prototypes if you are an interaction designer, etc.) 
6.  Your preferred fellowship term (3, 6, or  12 months).
7.  Your preferred host organization, or information about an alternate host organization if you would like to nominate one. 
8.  Your preferred location and start date. 

Details on specific questions

*   Project name: Please provide a descriptive name for the work you plan to undertake during the course of your fellowship.

*   Your project idea: Please provide a detailed description of the work you hope to perform as part of this fellowship, how you would go about doing this work, and why you are the right person to do it. The descriptions in previously-successful applications have been short essays, with three or more paragraphs per section. Successful applications will not simply say “I want to research the usability of open-source secure chat software” or “I want to design a better onboarding flow,” but will instead go into detail on methodology, interim milestones, collaborators, hypotheses, and other supporting information.

*   Host organizations: Do not hesitate to nominate an alternative host organization if your preferred choice is not listed.

*   Descriptors
          a. For Status, select the value that best reflects the state of the research you propose to perform (i.e., is this brand-new research, or a continuation of a well-established line of inquiry?), or of the software project you aim to design for (i.e., are you designing for software that isn’t written yet, or that is already in production?).
          b. For Objectives, Beneficiaries, and Focus, choose the ones that seem to best describe the work that you plan to do. It’s ok if you aren’t sure, just choose the ones that seem most appropriate.
          c. For Addressed problems, select the problem that the software you are researching or designing for is aimed at, or “Other” if none of the options seem to apply.
          d. For Regions, choose the parts of the world that you believe will benefit from the work you plan to do.

*   Upload: Please upload a single file (of type txt pdf odp ods or odt) containing the following information. You are welcome to include (2) and (3) in a cover letter, or as a simple page with bulleted lists.
          1. Your résumé or C.V.
          2. The name and contact information of two professional references.
          3. A copy of or links to 2-3 samples of your work (e.g., research papers if you are a usability researcher, screenshots or interactive prototypes if you are an interaction designer).
  • Individuals of all ages irrespective of nationality, residency, creed, gender, or other factors, with the exception that OTF is not able to support applicants within countries that the United States has trade restrictions or export sanctions as determined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
  • Individuals who demonstrate skill and ability to perform research or design on Internet Freedom technologies.
  • Individuals must demonstrate a commitment to share relevant knowledge and skills with the Internet freedom community.

All payments will be made in U.S. dollars (USD) and will comply with local laws, regulations and ethics rules. Each applicant is responsible for the tax consequences of any support they receive, as determined by the laws of their country.

It is each fellow’s sole responsibility to comply with any policies any pre-existing employer may have that would affect their eligibility to participate in the fellowship.

Other requests

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