Request for Proposals

The Tow Center is currently accepting Statements of Interest for research projects.

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, established in early 2010, provides journalists with the skills and knowledge to lead the future of digital journalism and serves as a research and development center for the profession as a whole.

The Tow/Knight Projects are funded through $2 million in grants from The Tow Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  Projects generously funded during the grant period range from small individual research projects to large multi-year partnerships.

Tow/Knight projects identify forward-thinking, applicable research projects with the aim of giving newsrooms, classrooms and scholars the innovations, tools, recommendations, and where possible verifiable metrics on newsroom transparency, evaluating impact, and the use of data.

Supported projects explore the intersection of evolving practices of journalism and technology, falling under three themes:

  • Transparency:  Projects can address either transparency and accountability in the practice of journalism and the operation of newsrooms, or explore broader innovations for making public policy and public institutions more transparent and accountable.  We are particularly interested in transparency as a social norm, both within the profession of journalism and in the broader digital media environment.
  • Impact:  Projects should establish metrics and/or methods that can help journalists determine what types of journalism are effective in a digital environment.  Alternately, they can explore the changing ways in which journalism contributes to the public policy process.
  • Data: Projects should explore the use of data in journalism, how emerging technologies and big data are shaping the field, and how information science, statistics, modelling  and mapping can be brought to bear on the journalistic process.  We are interested in projects which develop methodology, as well as study the communities that work in the data journalism space.

Tow/Knight Projects should involve collaboration between academics or researchers (eg, computer scientists, sociologists, statisticians, economists, business, communications theorists etc) and practitioners (traditional media organizations, startups, independent sites or journalists, tech companies and platforms).

Projects must show how they are evolving the frontiers of the journalism, media and technology discourse, rooted in sound research and applicable to those teaching and practicing in the field.

Projects should engage in an open process which engages the public and media stakeholders at various stages in the research, analysis, and wide dissemination of findings.

The lead researcher(s) from each project are Tow Fellows at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.  Fellows will be expected to attend (in person or virtually) regular Tow Center Research updates, to present their projects at Columbia, and to engage actively in the Tow Center blog on the topic of their project.

Project Activities/Outputs

Projects can propose a wide range of deliverables, including:

  • Academic articles and book projects
  • Whitepapers or research reports
  • Public lectures
  • Workshops and conferences (to be held at the Tow Center)
  • Data products and applications
  • New media websites and projects

Who Can Apply?

Applications are open to both researchers and practitioners.

Stand alone research projects should demonstrate a relationship between the academic researcher or research team, and a media partner.  We are interested, among others, in application from computer scientists, sociologists, statisticians, economists, political scientists, communications theorists and journalism scholars.

Practitioner applicants can propose a research project, or offer either data or institutional access, and be paired with an appropriate research team by the Tow Center.  Media partners can include: large media organizations, startups, independent sites/journalists, tech companies or online platforms.

Statement of Interest

Statements of Interests should be sent to  Applications will be assessed on a rolling basis.

Statements of Interest should include:

  • Tow Theme
  • Team Members and Bios
  • Research Question(s)
  • Media Partner and Nature of Collaboration (if applicable)
  • Data to be provided or used (if applicable)
  • Project Timeline
  • Project Outputs
  • Draft Project Budget
  • Public Engagement Strategy

Selection Criteria

Projects will be evaluated, on a rolling basis, by the Tow Center’s Director, Research Director and board members.  Tow Center staff will engage with and help to shape and implement the projects in an active capacity.