Mozilla Research Grants 2018H1

Mozilla seeks proposals for research funding to support its mission: to ensure the internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all.
These grants include topics directly relevant to current research, as well as topics that fit more broadly with our vision for improving the internet and implementing the principles of our manifesto.

Past Funding Areas
Areas we have funded in the past have included networking, security, compilers, software verification, software power management, developer tools, automatic translation, add-on privacy, improving internet safety, gender differences in VR, studying hacktivism, and research tools for blind users.

Research Domains
We are explicitly interested in supporting research into various technological domains, including:

  • virtual, mixed and augmented reality
  • voice and language-driven assistants
  • summarization of text, particularly for non-news articles
  • understanding speech and generating spoken text
  • improving accessibility of the web
  • building the open Internet of Things (notably viable real-world implementation approaches for HTTPS on local networks and work with Project Things)
  • metrics and methods to measure Internet Health, and ways to improve that health
  • improving tools we create, such as Rust, WASM and Servo and technical approaches for developers and creators of internet content
  • uses of Firefox, including using Firefox as a measurement platform, as an experimentation platform, or developing better data and tools to understand the web.

Research Questions
We are also interested in supporting research into solutions that explore problems we don’t know how to answer:

  • How can the internet develop open data resources and allow for data portability?
  • How can we use Firefox and data gathered through Firefox to better understand the online world?
  • What are reasonable ways to balance advertising and privacy?
  • How can we improve web anonymity and usability of that anonymity?
  • What are robust alternatives to advertising to fund internet experiences?
  • How can we improve the decentralization of the internet away from closed-source software and closed-source data?
  • How can we improve the diversity of contributors to open source?
  • What do we need to understand about identity to build better trusted user agents?
  • How can people and communities adapt the internet to meet local needs?
  • How can we make the internet safer to use everyday, particularly for vulnerable populations?
  • If we were to rebuild the internet (or major portions of it) from scratch today, what would we have it look like? What could we learn from such major rethinkings?

These research domains and questions are not exhaustive: we are open to other research proposals as long as they support our mission. On the other hand, we don’t want to you to spend your time developing proposals that have little chance of getting funded. Our aim with this program is to support Mozilla’s research efforts, rather than to generally fund research on the internet. In the absence of a strong Mozilla champion and/or a strong tie to current research, historically there are a few areas we’re unlikely to fund:

  • We generally don’t fund the development of new open source projects through Mozilla Research Grants. We are looking to fund the creation of new research knowledge in the world, and in some cases this may involve releasing open source code, but that can’t be the primary aim of the proposal.
  • We generally don’t fund proposals to improve the state of closed ecosystems, such as app stores.
  • We generally don’t fund studies of particular populations using or not using technologies, unless those are tied to very particular Mozilla goals.
  • We don’t fund development of ongoing open source (or closed source) programs: these should go through MOSS.
  • We don’t fund conferences through this process: both research and developer conference sponsorship requests should go through

To try and provide useful data about acceptances and rejections, we compared the set of answers to the question “Describe briefly what you intend to do” for both accepted proposals and proposals that were rejected in the first round, for both of our 2017 funding sessions. This table, redacted to remove words specific to individual proposals and generated by DataBasic (Thanks, DataBasic!), shows individual words only found in accepted proposals (on the left), found in both accepted and rejected proposals (in the middle) and only in proposals rejected in the first round (on the right).

This should be seen as entirely descriptive and not prescriptive: we will not automatically fund, say, kernel interfaces for female avatars, nor will we automatically reject emergency fitness alerts for chronic actors. While our focuses do change from session to session, this may provide useful information to inform your proposal, particularly if you were planning on submitting, say, a blockchain-based fitness tracker for educators.

What should I do?
Your first step should be to read through the whole submission form, well in advance, so you know what you’re going to need to do. We expect you to put together a clear, coherent expression of your problem, the approach you’re taking to solve that problem, and the solution you hope to achieve. You might want to think of this as a business plan for your research effort. What’s the minimum level of success you’re hoping to achieve and what’s the best case? How will you know how successful you are? How many people will be impacted by what you do if you’re successful? What would happen if you didn’t do this research?

Make sure that someone who isn’t an expert in your field can understand your project, and make sure that someone who is an expert in your field can understand what you’re doing that’s new.

You should make sure that you explicitly cover these criteria: viability, alignment, value, and impact.

  • viability: how likely is it that you will be able to execute on what you plan?
  • alignment: how well is this project aligned with Mozilla’s mission? Is it worth doing, and how does it help Mozilla accomplish the mission? How closely will you work with Mozilla?
  • value: is this project good value for money?
  • impact: how much will this project impact the world? how many people will it impact? what would happen if you don’t do this project?

Incorporating a plan for ongoing engagement with Mozilla is a great plus, as we’ve found the most successful projects are those with strong ongoing interactions. If there are Mozilla data sources you would like to collaborate around, such as Firefox, Common Voice, or survey data, please specify that in the proposal. We strongly encourage but don’t require you to have a Mozilla employee as a champion, and have them include a paragraph in support of your proposal. We recommend you have them read through your proposal before you submit, and incorporate any feedback they might have.

What limitations are there for this funding?
Applications must be affiliated with a university, research institute or research-focused registered non-profit, in any country except for those embargoed by the US State Department. You must include a plan for disseminating the results, which would normally include publication in a peer-reviewed and open-access venue, and we encourage you to make those publications, results, code, and/or data publicly accessible. We will pay open-access fees for not-for-profit publishers included in your budget. Please acknowledge Mozilla’s support in your publication, and send it to us when it gets published. We particularly encourage you to further publish your work in a format more accessible to the public, like blog posts or articles in the popular press. Send us those, too!

University-affiliated applicants can be students or faculty; students will require a letter from their advisor. Funding amounts may vary up to $50,000. We encourage the submission of small, focused proposals to explore individual projects. We expect the timescale for most projects, not counting final publications, to be around one year, although that is only a guideline. We strongly encourage ongoing collaboration with Mozilla over the entire course of the grant.

As part of our commitment to diversity, we will fund childcare up to 10% of a grant, with a cap of $5000. We particularly encourage applications from new faculty in their first or second years. Funding is given as an unrestricted gift to the institution. We do not pay university overhead.

Please make sure you’ve read the FAQ before you start writing your application; please ask questions through that same page. In addition, we will have live online office hours in this Vidyo room on April 16th at 9:30am PDT and on April 17th at 4:00pm PDT, and will record questions asked in that FAQ.

The submission deadline is May 1st at 5:00pm Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). 
We will announce results the week of June 15th.
If you miss this deadline, the next one will be announced in Fall of 2018.

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