Call for Proposals

Call for Proposals for Early, Restricted Access to Online Data

The NSF CAREER Grant, “The Internet, Activism and Social Movements,” (Award # SES-0547990) funded collection of a 5 year panel dataset and a 5 year cross-sectional time series dataset on websites related to online protest across 20 social movement areas (see below for links to detailed information on areas, etc.). Each dataset includes two linked subsets of data: a subset on overall website characteristics and a subset on any online or offline protest actions that were offered on, or directly linked to by, websites. Linked documents below offer detailed descriptions of case selection, coding routines, and variable definitions.

Because of the complexity of the datasets and coding procedures, and a consequent imperative for creating a well-versed user community to support the best scientific use of these data, the original project team will open the dataset to a limited number of users, based on proposals, to allow external investigators to use the data while it is still embargoed. This will allow investigators external to the data collection team to learn about the dataset and develop skills in using the data that will be useful to the wider research community. Upon general public release, all external investigators who have gained access to data through limited release programs agree to serve as a resource for new users and as referees on articles using the data, whenever asked by editors, for a period of 4 years. The goal is to develop a larger cadre of individuals familiar with the data and with proper scientific uses of the data so that the data can be used by the larger research community upon release in scientifically defensible ways.

This call is the first step in the larger public release process for these datasets. It is worth noting that the design of the entire process, including the construction of this call and the limited user period, reflects feedback from a public meeting with potential users held at the CBSM pre-conference before the Las Vegas 2011 ASA meeting. Below, clear review criteria for proposals will be introduced, as will a review process that includes a review panel with an external member and requirements for clear timelines. These components, as well as other elements of this call, came directly from suggestions by potential users at this public comment meeting. It is also important to note that investigators who wish to use these data but who do not want to participate in the creation of a skilled user and reviewer base for these data will be free to use the data upon public release at the close of 2015.

In the interim, we will run several calls for proposals for limited data use, as described below:

Deadlines for applications for limited use that include at least one member of the data collection team as a researcher and writer:
October 1, 2013 & October 1, 2014
February 1, 2014 & Februrary 1, 2015
June 1, 2014 & June 1, 2015

Deadlines for applications for limited use by masters or doctoral students who have one existing user as an external committee member (existing users include data collection team members and users who have completed data analyses through the limited user application program):
October 1, 2014
February 1, 2015
June 1, 2015

General public release where data use is unlimited:
December 2015

Proposal Requirements for October 1-June 1 2014 Calls

Proposals should be emailed to internetactivismdata@gmail.com after filling out this online form. Only complete submissions as of the due date will be considered for a given round. Proposals should be a maximum of 3 single-spaced pages (excluding references cited), with 12 point font and 1 inch margins all around.

            Complete proposals must clearly outline:

-the motivating research question;

-which datasets (panel, cross-section, what years, site and/or protest actions subsets), variables, and analyses will be used;

-which data collection team member will serve as a guide and collaborator and what their role will be (preferably based on prior contact and discussion with this individual);

-a timeline for starting and finishing the project; and

-to facilitate the broader impact goals of NSF, a plan for publication that describes the format of planned publications (article, chapter, etc.) and a description of how outreach to lay audiences will also occur.

A brief description of in-progress projects using the data is available at: Completed and In-Progress Data Uses. To limit conflicts in data use during this limited access stage, proposals that are redundant with already in-progress projects will not be considered. However, investigators wishing to pursue such projects will be free to do so when the data is publicly released. As proposals are accepted, new projects will be added to the webpage above, so potential users are urged to check this list frequently and in advance of submitting a proposal to reduce the risk of a conflict.

The review process will not be concerned with research question, save to check for redundancies with existing projects and to ensure that the data are scientifically appropriate for the question posed. That is, the review process is not meant to police the topics that will be investigated using these data, but rather to manage redundancies and ensure scientific integrity.

The formal review criteria for proposals will be as follows:

(1) Is the proposed project redundant with an already announced project? It is recommended that proposers carefully review the list of ongoing projects located at: Completed and In-Progress Data Uses. If a potential proposer has a question about whether a project might be redundant after reviewing that list, they are encouraged to send an email to internetactivismdata@gmail.com to get clarification.

(2) Is the data scientifically appropriate for the research question posed? It is the role of the data collection team member on the proposed project to help prepare proposals and actual work products on these grounds, which makes bringing in a team member as a collaborator earlier in the proposal design process a good idea.

(3) Is the data scientifically appropriate for the kind of analysis proposed? Variable formats and definitions are available at Data Documentation, which should aid proposers it creating scientifically appropriate analyses. Also, the data collection team member on the proposed project is likely to be of assistance here.

(4) Is there a data collection team member willing to serve on the research and writing team and is his/her role clearly described in the proposal? Is the data collection team member appropriate for the specific question and data used? The goal of embedding a data collection team member on each writing team is to facilitate project-specific education about these complex data in hopes of increasing the scientific quality of analyses using these data. To that end, early involvement of a team member with the skills and background to assist will advantage projects. At a minimum, we expect that the collaborator will 1) be integrally involved in the construction of the data analyses, particularly in terms of ensuring that all variables are correctly defined and appropriately compared; and 2) be integrally involved in assessing whether conclusions are appropriately drawn from the data and any limitations of the data recognized.  We also require that the collaborator sign-off used prior to all paper submissions (and resubmissions) to indicate that the data have been accurately and appropriately used according to the agreements made by the proposer.

A list of data collection team members willing to collaborate is available at: Potential Collaborators. If you are not sure who might be an appropriate person to contact about working with you, we encourage you to email internetactivismdata@gmail.com for advice. There is variability in the background and skills of volunteer collaborators; we are confident that there are projects on which every volunteer would be appropriate, but that does not guarantee that any particular volunteer will be appropriate for all projects or for your project.

(5) Is the timeline reasonable and does it demonstrate a desire to make progress on the project? The goal of the limited use period is to allow greater use, not to allow people to “reserve” parts of the dataset for their long-term use. Thus, proposals with reasonable but nonetheless forward moving timelines will be advantaged.

If a Proposal is Accepted

If a proposal is accepted, investigators will receive access to needed data and will be able to proceed in collaboration with the data collection team member(s) on the project.

In exchange for this early access, successfully proposers will have to agree to the following before gaining access to any datasets:

1) Investigators will confirm progress on major milestones through an email address, internetactivismdata@gmail.com, on a timeline laid out in their acceptance notification. If excessive delays from the proposed timeline occur, we reserve the right to rescind data access, allowing the project to move forward only after public data release has occurred. This is to ensure that investigators do not try to “reserve” access to specific aspects of the data without actually moving forward on projects.

2) Investigators will agree to serve as data ambassadors, both during the limited submission period and for a period of 4 years after public release. Our idea is that the valuable experience with these data that users develop during the limited use period should be shared with new users to ensure that new users have every opportunity to make the scientifically most defensible use of the data possible. In practical terms, this means participating on a listserv we set up where people who have questions about the data can post questions, agreeing to be listed on the project’s website as someone who is a data ambassador and can answer questions about the data, and then actually answering those questions when they come in. We don’t expect this to be onerous—we expect that people may spend at most a few hours on this every year. But, those few hours are important to developing an intellectual community around these data.

3) Investigators will agree to accept requests to review papers using these data for a period of 4 years after public release, although they are encouraged to share potential conflicts of interest with Editors. The idea behind this requirement is that investigators are gaining unique insight into these complex data through the limited use period that should allow them to spot problematic uses of the data. We want to ensure that these insights are shared with others, including through reviewing. This will be particularly important once the data is publicly released because a number of new users will be able to access the data without responsibly training on it first. We want to make sure there is a broad reviewer base developed at that point to ensure that the data is used in scientifically-appropriate ways. 

4) Investigators will sign an agreement agreeing to all of the aforementioned obligations and also agreeing that they will not use the data for any other purposes other than the approved paper (until data is publicly released). This includes new ideas that occur to investigators, which they would need to submit new proposals for on the deadline schedule shown above. This also includes substantial revisions to their approved project, which would require re-approval to make sure that any significant changes did not cause overlap with already approved projects. Finally, they will agree not to share or otherwise make the data accessible to others (even after public release, all data should be directly downloaded from the project website).

The Review Process

The review process will be administered by a review board composed of three data collection team members and at least one researcher who was not a member of the data collection team. In all cases, the review board’s decisions will be based on their collective evaluation of the five review criteria listed above and will be final. It is important to recall that adverse decisions on a proposal do not preclude the research from moving forward, but only fail to provide advance access to these data.

The involvement of an external board member was based on feedback from potential users at an open session on the limited submission process at an annual research conference. Approximately 20 potential users attended the session. A major topic raised by data collection members was how to provide assurances to potential users that their proposals would be reviewed fully and fairly. In addition to recommending clear review criteria (provided above), potential users suggested having an external member on the review board to assure submitting investigators that an independent and external actor would be involved in all evaluations.

The board will review all completed proposals submitted by the dates listed above. In order to facilitate timely use of the data, the board will render a decision on proposals within 8 weeks of the applicable deadline. Lead investigators of approved proposals will then receive access to the needed datasets, pending agreement to the requirements for access stipulated above. Other investigators will be asked to either resubmit in another period or will be asked to wait until the data is publicly accessible.

As a note, the external review board member may submit proposals, but s/he may not be involved in discussions of, or decisions about, his/her own proposal(s) or proposals that are seen as potentially conflicting with his/her proposal based on topic, question, or variables proposed for use.

Any questions about this review process can be directed to internetactivismdata@gmail.com.