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Sensor Journalism Callout: Get A Project Funded

If you’ve got a journalism project using sensors or drones, but need help to make it real, we want to hear from you.

As part of the Tow Center’s year of Sensor Journalism work, we’re collaborating on proof-of-concept projects with journalists, technologists, researchers, makers and programmers. We think that sensors are a reporting tool with great potential, so we’re working to bring some projects into production that we can learn from, use to inform the Columbia Journalism School’s curriculum and share with the rest of the digital journalism community.

Plenty of people have already been in touch with great ideas for sensor journalism projects but we don’t want to miss people who we haven’t yet met.

Project Criteria

  1. Firstly and crucially, we’re looking for good ideas. This might mean you’re chasing a good yarn; for example, an important investigative story, or a type of breaking news, a story with popular appeal, or bringing new analysis to bear. Or, your idea might open up new production processes for an existing type of journalism, or underpin a new journalism business opportunity.
  2. The project must use sensors of some kind, this might include air ‘quality’, water ‘quality’, light, sound, electromagnetism, radiation, position, movement, heat, or humidity. It’s unlikely to include human sensing (as in, “I can smell rotten eggs here”), or software sensing, but if your idea is awesome, that might be negotiable, so get in touch.
  3. The Tow Center’s involvement needs to finish by May 1, 2014, and any money we’re contributing needs to be entirely spent by then. Your project can continue, but it needs to do so without us. This is a hard deadline. It cannot shift.
  4. By January 15, 2014 we need to have learned something that we could include in curriculum (and document on this website). This is a hard deadline as well. This doesn’t have to be the final part of the story. It might be a lesson learned about sensor design, the legal and ethical context, sensor deployment or data interpretation.
  5. The Tow Center is not a simple funding body; we will have some management involvement in projects, whether it’s editorial direction, helping find collaborators, publishing platforms or refining the business opportunity. It needs to fit within the Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s mission, and leverage our characteristics.
  6. We’ll only be working on projects that have an excellent chance of meeting their well-defined and understood goals. And the goals have to be good (see point 1)

Key Dates

  • July 22, 2013 Callout Starts.
  • August 16, 11:59pm EDT, Submissions close.
  • Through September 7th – review, consultation, refinement, notification of successful and unsuccessful applicants.

We expect to contribute funding at a number of budget ranges: From small ($1,000 to $10,000), to medium (in the $50,000 range), to bigger ones. It’s possible that we won’t put any cash towards projects from this call-out, we may contribute to every project, or anywhere between those two possibilities.

Your Application

The goal of your application should be to address the criteria above. You don’t need to answer every single conceivable question we might have, but we need to understand what you’re trying to do, and how you’ll do it.

Use this Tow Sensor Journalism Callout Response (Word Doc)

Email it to ferguspitt@columbia.edu by August 16, 11:59pm EDT, using the header Tow Sensor Journalism Idea. We’ll read them as they come in, but may not contact you until late August.