March 27, 2020

Investing in research in the era of COVID-19

By: Daron Green

As we all continue to monitor the rapidly evolving situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, we want to communicate how Facebook’s research investments and academic relations may be affected. We empathize with the research community in this unprecedented circumstance, and we understand universities may experience some challenges regarding support for grant programs now and in the coming months.

To help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we have canceled all in-person research events through the end of June. To accommodate these changes, we are planning new ways to foster our online community and support remote collaboration and networking. To stay engaged with academia and share more of what Facebook is working on, we plan to produce more online content, such as videos, Q&As with researchers, and facilitated virtual networking.

We are dedicated to continuing our research activities and specifically our external academic investments, despite the challenges we are all facing with limitations on travel, in-person collaboration, and increased health concerns. These investments include conference sponsorships, requests for proposals, our Fellowship program, university lab investments, and sponsored research.

Conference sponsorships

Facebook believes conference sponsorships are essential in helping sustain a vibrant research community. We will continue to honor all 2020 research conference sponsorships even in the event that the conference cannot physically take place. In many cases, we are partnering with conference organizers to identify how best to support a virtual event or determine an alternative time and location.

Requests for proposals

Facebook launched 23 RFPs in 2019, with the vast majority of funds provided as unrestricted gifts. Our plan — and our expectation — is to exceed that number and increase our investment level in 2020.

These calls were typically launched and promoted in person at conferences and other events, so there may be challenges in raising awareness to these opportunities. To stay updated on our newest research award opportunities, subscribe to our RFP email list or join our Facebook Academics group.

RFP deadline adjustments

We recognize that teams responding to these calls may struggle to assemble their best proposal due to the need for remote collaboration. Moving forward, if possible, we will extend the application window for research teams to respond to an RFP. Please see individual RFP application pages for clarification.

We also understand that university administrators may be affected by delays and may need extra time to handle the processing of payments. We will work closely with university administrators on dispersing awards given these constraints.

For recently open RFPs, we are doing our best to complete review cycles as soon as possible so that we can disperse awards. However, some review processes may be delayed, depending on how the COVID-19 outbreak affects our community. We will work diligently to update our website to keep respondents informed. Any changes regarding process delays for RFPs will be reflected in each individual RFP application page.

Facebook Fellowship Program

We currently still plan to host our 2020 Fellowship Summit in September. However, these plans are subject to change and will depend on how the situation regarding COVID-19 evolves. Regarding payments for the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year, we will work with individual Fellows and their universities as needed, but we are currently continuing to move forward as planned.

We still plan to invite promising doctoral students to apply for our 2021 Fellowship awards on August 10, 2020.

University lab investments and consortia

Facebook will fully support all our current university research lab and research consortia sponsorships, and we will continue to explore new opportunities.

Sponsored research

We are reviewing the implications for agreements in which our research partners as well as our own researchers may not be able to access special equipment or might experience delays and other issues. We will work closely with our partners to identify suitable alternatives for affected agreements.

In addition to these activities, we will continue to engage with our academic partners and research interns, including producing joint publications and new research tools.

Please continue to monitor for updates. For more information on how Facebook is committing to keeping people safe and informed about the coronavirus, visit Newsroom.