COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund

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An open fund for projects debunking vaccine misinformation
To support additional debunking efforts, the Google News Initiative is launching a COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund worth up to $3 million.
The Open Fund is accepting applications from projects that aim to broaden the audience of fact checks, particularly with those who may be disproportionately affected by misinformation in mind.
The fund is global and open to news organizations of every size that have a proven track record in fact-checking and debunking activities, or partner with an organization with such recognition.
We will prioritize collaborative projects with an interdisciplinary team and clear ways to measure success. For example, eligible applications might include a partnership between an established fact-checking project and a media outlet with deep roots in a specific community, or a collaborative technology platform for journalists and doctors to jointly source misinformation and publish fact checks.
More info on how to apply here.

What is the COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund?
The uncertainty and developing nature of the health crisis provoked by the novel coronavirus has made providing accurate, evidence-based journalism more essential than ever.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund is aimed at supporting journalistic efforts to fact-check misinformation about the COVID-19 immunization process that specifically seek to support audiences that are underserved by fact-checking or targeted by misinformation.

The Fund will make up to USD $3,000,000 available for projects which demonstrate a clear potential to provide effective corrective tools and content to counterbalance COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. Google will fund selected projects up to USD $1,000,000 each, covering up to 80% of the total overall budget of the project. Applicants cannot ask for an amount higher than 50% of their annual total income (Please note, this should reflect the combined annual income of partners for collaborative projects and include revenue generated as well as donations, philanthropy support etc).

Priority will be given to collaborative projects (e.g. multiple news organizations / entities working together) and that are interdisciplinary in nature (e.g. involve journalists working alongside epidemiologists or immunologists).

Important Notice: The COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund provides funding to journalistic efforts, and is not intended to support creation of medical or health related information. If an applicant creates medical or health related information (including information about misinformation) through projects funded by the COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund, that information is the sole responsibility of the applicant and its team, and Google will not be responsible for that information.

Application Process
The application window opens on January 12th, 2021 at 6:00 PT and closes on January 31, 2021 at 23:59 PT. You will be asked to provide descriptions, detailed project plans and budget information via our online application form. You will also have to accept the Terms and Conditions.

Application Eligibility Requirements
The COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund is open to news organizations of every size, both for profit and nonprofit, publishing on any medium (digital, print, video, etc) that aim to produce original journalistic content. Applicants can be individual organizations or coalitions of publishers, both formal and informal.

All applicants should have a proven track record in fact-checking and debunking activities or partner with an organisation with such recognition. Evidence that third parties recognize the organization as a fact-checker will be required in the application, with membership of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) being the most prominent.

Projects must be ready to launch as soon as possible and no later than April 15, 2021. They should be fully realized within 12 months of obtaining the funding.

Eligible Projects
Projects must set out to detect, debunk and effectively countenance misinformation about the COVID-19 immunization process. Successful projects will show that they can serve a broad audience with effective corrective content about COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. The core output of any project will be accurate, timely and accessible fact checks of harmful false claims about COVID-19 immunization. Projects must aim to reach a far broader (or different) audience than would otherwise be reached. This might mean exponentially growing the audience of an existing fact-checking project, or developing new formats for corrective content, or tracking fact checks against their related misinformation to understand how those reached by both respond to the conflicting pieces of information.

Experimental projects are welcome but must be measurable with well-defined goals.

Find below examples of eligible projects. Note that these are for inspiration only and ideas that perfectly match the bullets below may well be rejected:

  • A partnership between an established fact-checking project and a media outlet with deep roots in a specific community that has been underserved by fact checks or targeted by misinformation about COVID-19
  • A data visualization of common misperceptions and their related fact checks and associated primary evidence
  • A searchable database of fact checks about vaccine misinformation
  • A tool to help journalists spot harmful misinformation about the COVID-19 immunization process more efficiently
  • A new format aimed at making fact checks about COVID-19 immunization clearer and more effective at allaying concerns about the vaccine — especially with audiences that are explicitly targeted by misinformation
  • An analytics tool that assesses not just whether people have read a fact check but also their prior and posterior beliefs about the debunked misinformation
  • A campaign with public health officials to disseminate debunks in doctors’ offices and hospitals
  • A tip line for doctors administering the vaccine to flag to fact-checkers myths they are hearing from their patients — and an easy mechanism to distribute material that addresses those concerns
  • A collaborative platform for journalists and doctors to jointly publish fact checks

Projects will be evaluated against seven main criteria.

  1. Impact assessment framework: The project has presented a clear methodology of how it will assess the effect of the fact checks it publishes. Specifically, are fact checks clarifying misconceptions that readers had rather than re-affirming something they already knew? How is the fact check affecting the reach of the related misinformation? How is the impact different to what would have been possible without funding? The framework must have both qualitative and quantitative elements.
  2. Expected reach: The project is specific about the reach it expects to have and how it plans to get to those audience figures.
  3. Underserved audiences strategy: The project is clear about how it intends to reach audiences that are typically underserved by fact checks or disproportionately affected by misinformation.
  4. Expertise: The project has a proven track record in fact-checking / debunking and includes public health / immunization experts.
  5. Collaboration: The project is more likely to be considered for funding if it is interdisciplinary in nature (e.g. involve journalists working alongside epidemiologists or immunologists) and if a collaborative approach is taken (e.g. multiple news organizations / entities working together).
  6. Innovation: The project introduces a new format, methodology, structure or distribution mechanism that has never or rarely ever been attempted before at this scale.
  7. Feasibility and urgency: The project can start almost immediately so as to reach audiences around the world while they are directly affected by the COVID-19 immunization process and related misinformation.

Examples of projects that would not qualify:

  • A project that aims to publish explainers about the COVID-19 vaccine and the immunization process without tackling misinformation directly.
  • An existing debunking project that will use the funding to either exclusively cover existing or incremental staffing costs, or exclusively to grow its social media reach through paid ads.
  • A project that plans to publish fact checks but has no team member with a track record of doing so. We encourage projects without prior experience that are eager to apply to seek a partner publisher with background in fact-checking, starting from verified signatories of the IFCN.
  • A project that aims to collect data about COVID-19 misinformation and the effect of fact-checking for the primary purpose of publishing an academic paper. Research can be a component of eligible projects but not its primary goal.
  • A project that is not predominantly about COVID-19 immunization misinformation.
  • Projects that do not include in their team an individual or organization that has ever published a fact check or article debunking misinformation are not eligible.
  • Projects that are run by a government institution are not eligible to apply. Public health experts with ties to government institutions can be part of the project team but not the lead applicants.
  • Academic projects whose sole goal is to conduct and publish research about anti-vaccine misinformation are not eligible.
  • Projects with ties to producers of COVID-19 vaccines are also ineligible.

Project Funding
Google will fund up to $1,000,000 per selected project. Special discretion on the total project cap may be considered by the jury depending on the scale and impact of a very large collaborative application. Google will finance up to 80% of the overall costs of the selected projects. Organizations are expected to detail costs for their projects, which can include in-kind expenditure (for example, people assigned to the project). Eligible expenses include engineering and operations costs (e.g. product development, project management, user experience design, database build and maintenance, and hosting), the purchase or licensing of any equipment, tools, hardware, software and other assets or materials needed for the project and marketing expenses (capped to 20% of the total amount requested). Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs. Please note that the effective date for the project will be the date that the funding agreement is signed. No expenses incurred before this date can be covered by the funding.

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