Facebook Project FAQ

How long will researchers have to publish their results?

Timing is up to the researchers. They have plenty of incentive to get rigorous research written and published as soon as possible. In addition, we will be giving grants to multiple researchers analyzing the same data, and so they have plenty of incentives to work and publish quickly. Our peer pre-review services are also designed to increase speed and quality.  As always in science, 100 percent of the credit goes to the first scholar with a published finding (and consequences await those who make claims that turn out to be false).

Are the researchers precluded from profiting in any way from their findings – whether as consultants or as authors of non-academic articles or books? How are their activities going to be monitored to ensure they don’t break the rules?

The academic researchers chosen for Social Science One projects will have full freedom to publish their findings, without review by the companies whose data they study. Academics will be prohibited from patenting research findings. All papers that come out of this research process must be made available publicly and posted on the SocialScience.One website. All researchers commit to follow the replication standard and deposit their computer code, and information about the data used and how to obtain access, in Dataverse. Researchers may not work as consultants for the company providing the data on overlapping topic areas.  Other than that, researchers may write what they wish and make it available in scholarly books or articles as they see fit, following normal academic protocols.

How will researchers find out about opportunities to participate in the Facebook partnership?

All information will be posted at SocialScience.One, with notifications on Twitter and Facebook. Researchers can also sign up for our mailing list. Social Science One will release regular RFI’s (requests for information) and RFP’s (requests for proposals).  Formal proposals will all be submitted through Social Science Research Council (SSRC). Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis, with reviews scheduled periodically. Detailed codebooks for the available datasets to analyze will be available at SocialScience.One. Over time, we will add new types of datasets, and most existing data sets will grow as more data come in.

 

Is Social Science One independent of Facebook?

Facebook is committed to partnering with Social Science One to further the broader goal of studying the impact of social media on elections and democracy. Facebook is building a dedicated internal team to work with the commission, and academic researchers we approve, to prepare privacy-protected datasets and analytical tools with high security, including full auditing of what any one researcher does.

Facebook will pay for its own expenses, including the cost of making data available, the cost of securing that data, and the Facebook staff necessary for this project.

We have insulated the grant making and decision processes from financial incentives, with Facebook providing no funding for the independent academic experts. All funding will come from our diverse array of nonprofit foundations.  Facebook has also relinquished its right to pre-publication approval. If Facebook prevents Social Science One from obtaining any relevant data for research, the commission has the legal right, and indeed the obligation, to report this publicly.

 

Where's the Election Commission, the Election Research Commission, the Research Commission, the thing Facebook is doing with academics, etc.?

The organization now called Social Science One was first announced on April 9, 2018 when A New Model of Industry-Academic Partnerships was released. Our effort has been referred to by these and other names by Facebook and us all along the way.  Given the scope of our work at hand, which extends beyond the role that Facebook and social media plays in elections, we have officially named this effort "Social Science One".

The "commission" is a group of academics inside SS1 dedicated to this project.

What's "the Commission"?

"The commission" is the "trusted third party mentioned above”  In the case of the Facebook partnership, the commission is composed of (a) Gary King and Nathaniel Persily as co-chairs, acting like editors of a scholarly journal and (b) other members, acting like members of the journal's editorial board, but organized into methodological, substantive and regional committees. Different subsets of members (as needed, cross-cutting the committee structure) sign one of three levels of confidentiality agreement, with only the most restrictive of which has privileged access to proprietary information at Facebook and, as a result, foregoes grant applications and publication without pre-approval.

The commission is a unified structure and so it (although not every one of its members) has full access to the necessary datasets and information at Facebook needed to conduct research. The decision-making structure ensures that "the commission" can access whatever information it needs without unduly burdening its members or creating a security risk by having every single member access proprietary or privileged information that they don't necessarily need for a particular decision or analysis.

 

Is Social Science One related to Crimson Hexagon?

Social Science One is not affiliated with Crimson Hexagon. Gary King, co-chair of Social Science One, co-founded Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics company, based on his research at Harvard University. Previously, he was chair of the Crimson Hexagon Board of Directors, but the company and Brandwatch have now merged (the new company has taken the name Brandwatch) and he is a Board Observer at the new company. Facebook recently looked into Crimson Hexagon’s social media data collection practices and customers, found that they adhere to all of Facebook’s policies, and still regularly work with the company. Crimson Hexagon, and now Brandwatch, only collects publicly available social media posts, does not collect any private social media posts, and only contracts with governments on Freedom House’s list of “free” countries.