Open Technology Fund - Information Controls Fellowship Program

Open Technology Fund - Information Controls Fellowship Program

Setting the stage

The Information Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) supports examination into how governments in countries, regions, or areas of OTF’s core focus are restricting the free flow of information, cutting access to the open Internet, and implementing censorship mechanisms, thereby threatening the ability of global citizens to exercise basic human rights and democracy; work focused on mitigation of such threats is also supported.

Fellowship Information

  • Three, six, nine or twelve month fellowships available

  • Usually offered to postdoctoral, doctoral students, and experienced researchers with demonstrated ability and expertise

  • Monthly stipend of $7,000 USD

  • Travel stipend of $1,250 to $5,000 USD, depending on the fellowship length

  • Equipment stipend of $1,250 to $5,000 USD, depending on the fellowship length

    Likely candidates

    Typically, ICFP fellows have experience in fields such as computer science, engineering, information security research, software development, social sciences, law, and data visualization, among others. Information controls is a cross-disciplinary field, so applications are open to people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines and can include students and junior to mid-career practitioners. To get a better sense of the ICFP community, you can read about fellows from round one, round two, round three, round four, round five, round six, round seven, round eight and round nine.

    Where do fellows work?

    ICFP fellows embed with a host organization for the duration of their fellowship.

    When applying, applicants can specify any host organization of their choosing. Regardless of whether it is a previous or new host organization, justification needs to be provided in the application. Please note that non-academic host organizations are welcome, as are those based outside the United States.

    While fellows are ideally able to work locally within their host organization, applicants who wish to work remotely will also be considered with the expectation that a strategy for remote communication will be established. You can find previous host organizations listed in the fellowship descriptions.

    For entities interested in serving as a host organization, please email for more information.

    Criteria and the application process

    For a full rundown of the application process, head here.

    When are requests for applications made?

    The 2023 application window will be open from Jan 9, 2023 until Feb 20, 2023. Please note that applications have to be submitted via the OTF website no later than 23:59 (11:59PM) GMT on the final day. The fellowship window is open once annually.

    If you’d like to be notified when this and other OTF funding windows open in the future, sign up to join the OTF-announce mailing list.

    Potential areas of focus

  • Development and refinement of tools and techniques to continuously monitor Internet interference on a global scale

  • Investigation of information controls, security, and privacy in popular applications such as search engines, social media platforms, and instant messaging applications

  • Leveraging open data to analyze the types of information controls being carried out and what they are targeting

  • Testing creative methods and new protocols for censorship circumvention and analyzing network interference measures including all forms of Internet filtering.

  • Examination of the impact of Internet censorship and use of circumvention tools

  • Experimental techniques to limit pro-government manipulation of online discussions

  • Researching emerging (state-sponsored) surveillance patterns and analysis of targeted digital threats against civil society organizations or human rights defenders, such as denial of service attacks, social engineering and phishing attacks such as malware.

  • Studying the roles of machine learning and artificial intelligence in digital surveillance practices in repressive environments

  • Investigating how the traits of quantum computing implicate the realm of Internet freedom and exploring opportunities to employ this leap in computing power to evade censorship.

  • Other novel ideas and approaches relating to the study of global and regional information controls

    Things to avoid

  • A focus on countries with minimal information controls

  • Working with a host organization you are already affiliated with

  • Testing of end user connections that violate established
    ethical principles

    Important considerations

  • Projects should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the mission of promoting freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online. Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable and achievable with activities and milestones listed monthly. The overall project goals should extend beyond traditional audiences.

  • For the duration of fellowships, the fellow will be expected to work full time with their host organization.

  • Any individual based in the United States will need to acquire the appropriate work authorization. For instance, if a student with an I-20 visa intends to carry out their project in the United States, they will need to apply to use Curricular Practical Training for their fellowship.

  • Before completing a submission, we strongly encourage you to review our Privacy and Information Sharing Policy.

    Review panel

    All ICFP fellowship applications are reviewed by the OTF team; selected applications are also then reviewed by an independent Advisory Council review panel composed of experts with deep knowledge and insight into topics related to information controls.

    Award information

    OTF awards are performance-based contracts between OTF and the applicant with payment occurring through a monthly stipend subject to approval each month by the OTF Program Manager and supporting host organization. OTF reserves the right to award less or more than the funds described under such circumstances as it may deem to be in the best interest of the program priorities.

    Project and Budget Periods

    OTF fellowship contracts are 3, 6, 9 or 12 months in duration. From time to time OTF may consider applications to extend existing contracts beyond the initial project period. Any such decision will be subject to availability of funds, satisfactory progress of the applicants, and a determination that continued funding would be in the best interest of program priorities.

    Monitoring & Evaluation

    OTF views monitoring and evaluation as a way to learn from our fellows and share lessons learned with future applicants. This improves the collective knowledge of the community and thus contributes to its sustainability.

    Because payment is dispersed at monthly intervals upon completion of stated contractual goals, successful applicants can expect regular contact with both their host organization and OTF project manager. Monitoring consists of compulsory monthly reports and phone, email, or in-person discussions and consultations as needed. Fellows are required to submit brief monthly updates about their work to OTF, their host organization, and the OTF community. This allows others to review and comment on the ICFP community’s work, encouraging collaboration.

    The adviser or responsible person at the host organization, in turn, provides a “traffic light” report to OTF evaluating their fellow’s progress. This report, detailed below, is the basis upon which stipend payments are released to fellows on a monthly basis.

    A “green light” from the host organization signals that the fellow is on track and funds can be released. A “yellow light” from the host organization signals that while funds should be released, there are some concerns that need to be flagged to OTF.

    A “red light” from the host organization signals that progress has been interrupted and an intervention is required. The host organization recommends “stop payment” and OTF, the host organization, and the fellows discuss possible remedial steps to either get back on track or terminate the fellowship.


  • Individuals of all ages irrespective of nationality, residency, creed, gender, or other factors, with the exception that OTF is not able to support applicants within countries that the United States has trade restrictions or export sanctions as determined by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

  • Individuals who demonstrate skill and ability to assist in efforts to overcome information controls.

  • Individuals who demonstrate a desire to grow their knowledge and skills through a collaborative, cross-discipline approach.

  • Individuals who demonstrate a commitment to reach audiences outside the research community.

    How to Apply

    For more information and job application details, see; Open Technology Fund - Information Controls Fellowship Program

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