Learning and Impact




The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation seeks proposals for research that can inform near-term interventions that mitigate the impacts of disinformation and targeted online manipulation of communities of color. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, the movement for racial justice, and the 2020 election campaign have all provided fodder for bad actors to target persons of color with disinformation that exploit racial tensions and deep-seated socio economic anxieties in ways that are harmful to health, corrosive to communities and our democracy. Recent studies have demonstrated that communities of color are asymmetrically targeted by disinformation, in particular disinformation that seeks to discourage civic participation. According to a US Senate Intelligence Committee report, Black Americans were targeted more than any other group in the 2016 election.

Knight seeks to fund research projects that will yield actionable insights to mitigate the effects of targeted disinformation in communities of color. This opportunity is open to a range of experts working within research institutions, including universities, policy centers, and journalism and civil society organizations within the United States.  Submissions are especially encouraged from minority-serving organizations such as HBCUs, Hispanic- and AAPI-serving colleges and universities, news organizations, and early-career scholars.  


We will consider a wide range of proposals of up to $175,000. Ideas can include:

  • Publication development, including special journal issues or volumes
  • Course relief to enable research
  • Research assistance
  • Targeted investigative reporting projects
  • Symposia, workshops or other convenings that advance practical, actionable insights
  • Data or technology acquisition

Funding may not be used for direct advocacy or lobbying efforts.

Please submit proposals no later than Sep. 15, 2021, at 11:59pm. Select organizations will be invited to submit a more detailed proposal and budget in Oct. 2021. Decisions will be finalized in Dec. 2021, and initial grant payments will begin in early 2022. The review process will be advised by independent experts, and Knight Foundation will make final funding decisions.


Who can apply?

This opportunity is open to any organization with research capability. Knight funds may only be used to support research and may not be used for direct advocacy, lobbying, or political activities.

What types of research projects are you looking to fund?

We’re open to your ideas and will consider any proposals that can meaningfully reduce the effects of targeted disinformation in communities of color in the near term.

What are the questions on the initial application?

Please complete this sentence: This project seeks to… *

Briefly describe your proposed project. * One to two paragraphs. Please use plain language.

Who will use this research and how? *Please detail the practical interventions this project will inform. One to two paragraphs.

Why are you the right team or individual to address this opportunity? *

Describe the diversity of your team. *

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

What happens after the submission of the initial proposal?

All proposals will be reviewed, and a smaller number will be selected for additional consideration. Those selected for additional consideration will be contacted within a month or so of submission and asked for more detail regarding their research design and a high-level budget. 

How will proposals be evaluated? Who are the reviewers?

The evaluation and selection process is being advised by a diverse range of independent experts. All funding decisions will be made by Knight Foundation.

When will finalists be selected? When will grant recipients be selected?

We hope to notify finalists in November 2021 and complete the selection process in December 2021. Winners will be announced in early 2022.

Is the call only for researchers based in the United States or can researchers outside of the United States who are proposing work in the U.S. submit proposals?

For this call we are focusing on US-based researchers working in the domestic context.

How many grantees will there be?

We won’t know until we make final funding decisions, but we plan to award a total of $1.5 million.

Can I see a list of prior research grantees?

Yes, you can see a list of prior Knight research grantees at www.kf.org/krn

The call specifies that the outcomes be actionable, can you say a bit more about what that means?

We’re looking for a clear articulation of how this research will be applied. You should communicate a clear intervention that can result from the research. This can take many forms including the development of new tools or formalizing a research partnership that benefits a community. Publications, convenings, and workshops to educate communities will also be considered, but be clear about these will lead to the outcome you’re trying to achieve.

Is it possible for an institution to submit multiple applications from different faculty for this program?

Yes. There is no limit to the number of submissions per institution, but we encourage collaboration across an institution to the extent that makes sense. 

Can the same individual submit multiple proposals?

We would prefer that the same individual not submit multiple proposals; however, we will consider proposals from different teams that may include the same individual.

Is there a preference for a specific population of study, in terms of audiences that are targeted by disinformation?

Yes, this call is for projects that focus on communities of color, but we understand “communities of color” in broad terms.

Can I send my proposal to you for comments before the submission deadline?

We are happy to address specific questions in advance of the deadline, but because of the volume of proposals expected we are unable to provide specific feedback to full proposals in advance.

Should I discuss our methodology in the proposal?

While the questions do not ask about methods directly, any details about your research design that you feel would be helpful in understanding and appreciating your project are welcomed.

Can my research proposal have co-principal Investigators?


I have questions about what kind of expenses are allowed in the budget, do you provide guidance on this anywhere?

At the initial proposal stage we are mainly interested in the research questions and interventions your project will accomplish; if your project is selected to move to the next step we will ask for a detailed budget and provide more guidance on allowable expenses.Knight Foundation does not allow indirect costs.

I missed the information sessions. Are recordings available?

Unfortunately not, but we are happy to answer any questions at [email protected].