Apply for funding to help analyze, publish and preserve the world's most important documents

Apply for funding to help analyze, publish and preserve the world’s most important documents

Introducing Gateway Grants, offering $10,000 plus technical support to transparency and access

Written by
Edited by André Natta

Today, we’re opening up applications for the first in a series of grants to extend how DocumentCloud helps collect, preserve and analyze vetted primary source materials, with a goal of supporting newsrooms, archival institutions and other transparency efforts that can contribute substantially to public access and understanding.

In this initial round, we will award five projects with up to $10,000 each for ambitious ideas around specific document collections, such as monitoring and archiving government reading rooms or exploring how decentralized technologies can preserve key materials at risk of censorship or removal. Projects should build on DocumentCloud’s recently launched Add-On infrastructure, making it easy to extend and automate DocumentCloud’s functionality.

We’re also now hiring for our first Open Source Fellow to help support and work with these and future projects while working to make our tools easier to extend, adapt and integrate.

These grants are made possible by our collaboration with Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web.

Since 2009, DocumentCloud has hosted critical documents ranging from the internal files of criminal cartels to public records detailing the day-to-day workings of local government — over 150,000,000 pages and counting. Along the way, our network of almost 4,000 newsrooms has pushed DocumentCloud to the limits in ways we could never have imagined, from powering watchdogging of public meetings to offering machine learning and document classification tools with the click of a button.

Help build a better platform for primary source materials

Access to reliable information powers civic health and strong democracy, whether in shaping a governmental response to global events or helping communities invest in a better tomorrow by understanding the impacts of budget and policy choices.

But that access faces growing dangers, from legal threats and internet censorship to linkrot, shrinking newsrooms and key materials lost within vast archives. Given DocumentCloud’s central place in these information ecosystems, we’re excited to find better ways to help public interest organizations develop, deploy and share better approaches to these challenges.

We also realize that there is not one solution nor sector to help address these challenges, and we encourage applicants from a range of fields and backgrounds, including journalism, research, archival, public advocacy and civic technology communities.

In addition to funding, projects will get a chance to partner with the MuckRock technology team to help implement their project. However, project teams should have the capacity to implement the key components of their planned work. Projects should be scoped to be implemented within six months.

Projects will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Impact: When successfully executed, will it substantially enhance access or understanding of an important document collection? This could range in focus from one important, clearly defined collection you are already working with (for example, a cache of whistleblower documents or a key historical archive of presidential records or a historical era) or something that offers a more widespread utility, such as helping monitor and analyze federal or state contracts in a more friendly and permanent way. We’re particularly interested in projects that are focused on helping preserve materials at risk due to clearly identified challenges.

  • Creativity: How novel and unique is the approach to the challenge you’ve identified? Ideally, projects go beyond simply storing documents in an archive to thinking about the best way to address key challenges, whether those are new approaches to gathering and verifying information or ways to involve a broader range of participants.

  • Ability: How likely is the team to succeed at the proposed project? We welcome both prototypes that are looking for a way to get across the finish line as well as ideas starting from scratch, but you should have a good sense of both the nature of the documents being collected and both the technical, social and legal considerations involved in the proposed effort.

  • Benefit: How much better will the world be thanks to this effort? Will it help strengthen a community or raise awareness about a key issue? Could it help rectify or even prevent harms or inform future generations?

Our panel of reviewers will evaluate and consider applications on a month-by-month rolling basis.

Today, through DocumentCloud and our other services, our network of almost 4,000 partners reaches 50 million people each month with vetted primary source materials. Dating back to 2009, DocumentCloud has helped newsrooms and other organizations tackle large, document-driven investigations ranging from the Panama Papers and Telegramgate to monitoring local permitting processes and public health.

Some of these projects integrated machine learning and crowdsourcing to tackle enormous document sets, while other partners have integrated DocumentCloud right into their workflow. That includes innovative partners such as the Documenters network, which has used DocumentCloud as a backbone for collecting public meetings materials while training members of the public to attend and report back what actually happens at those meetings.

We’re excited to help support a broader community of projects and collaboration and can’t wait to read your proposals. To receive updates on this and other opportunities, as well as upcoming new features baked into DocumentCloud, register for the MuckRock newsletter.


Header image by MBNav412 of Sohail Gate at Rohtas Fort, Pakistan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.