Closing Date : August 06 2021, Friday
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused global devastation with the deaths of over 3 million people, disrupting economic and social prosperity with a disproportionate impact on underserved and marginalized communities globally. It has also significantly changed our daily lives in all aspects – from the way we live, work, and engage with key public information, including through the use of social media and online platforms. COVID-19 vaccines will play a critical role in returning our societies to some sense of pre-COVID normalcy and ultimately ending this pandemic. As vaccines become increasingly available in all countries, the public health priority will shift from addressing concerns around vaccine access and supply to better understanding the dynamics of vaccine demand, hesitancy, and confidence.
The Alliance for Advancing Health Online is comprised of members from the technology, health, global development, and academic sectors that have joined forces to advance public understanding of how social media can best be utilized to better understand and increase the health and resiliency of communities around the world. The Alliance is excited to launch a request for proposals (RFP) for research supported by the Vaccine Confidence Fund (“the Fund”). Facebook and Merck & Co., Inc. are financially sponsoring the Fund. Other Alliance members will be serving on the Advisory Council.
Areas of Interest
The Fund is seeking proposals that address this primary research question: How can social media be best utilized to better understand and increase vaccination confidence and uptake?
We highly encourage applicants – especially from interdisciplinary teams and cross-sectoral partnerships – to develop truly transformative proposals that address critical research gaps with creative solutions. We also invite applicants to develop their own ideas that align with the Fund’s primary research question and principles. Research proposals should include the following: a well-defined problem statement that articulates a key research gap and/or specifies a focus population (making it clear why this research is novel and how it will add to the current body of understanding); a proposed research methodology and approach (ideally using interdisciplinary methods); and a measurement framework that outlines clear measures and their intended plans for capturing data. In addition, a dissemination plan, timeline, detailed budget and budget narrative, organizational information, and CVs of key project personnel will also be required.
Understanding how social media can contribute to vaccine uptake is this Fund’s north star. Recognizing the complexity of this challenge, and that vaccination confidence is the pathway to vaccine uptake, this Fund is interested in pursuing new and transformative approaches to addressing the immediate challenges of increasing vaccination confidence and uptake for COVID-19 as well as routine immunizations. As such, this Fund is intentionally less specific about prescribing research questions or methodological agendas. We instead want to encourage exciting and innovative approaches that meet the stated criteria. We also are interested in supporting proposals that focus on historically marginalized or excluded communities globally.
Below we have included illustrative research examples that would be interesting but they are, by no means, intended to be exclusive or prescriptive.
- Projects that seek to provide improved understanding and/or guidance on how community, national, and global level influencers’ –such as health organizations, public authorities, media outlets, civil society organizations, or politicians– online behavior can increase vaccination confidence and uptake, especially among historically marginalized or excluded communities globally.
- Projects that explore and test exciting, novel, and innovative approaches to leveraging social media. This may include going beyond traditional fields of study to seek approaches from other disciplines that may be applicable to addressing the challenges of COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Or proposals may seek to provide greater insight on how these platforms and their data can be applied to provide new perspectives, approaches, or analytical methods for increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake or other routine immunizations.
- Projects that explore a deeper
understanding of focus communities’ – i.e., historically marginalized or
excluded communities globally – dynamics, specifically with regard to
how online influences may fit into the broader context of offline
behavior. This may include projects that look at new ways social media
currently does or may affect vaccination confidence and uptake in a
community and/or explore key factors along the influence pathway that
contribute to validation/discreditation sharing or the formation
of/contribution to community beliefs.
This Fund is interested in proposals which can articulate findings that have either immediate or potential impact on the way we understand vaccination confidence or uptake in communities. However, this Fund is also acutely aware of the ambitious timeline and appreciates that critical data (e.g., data from vaccination centers/health clinics) needed particularly for assessing impact likely will not be publically available during the actual research implementation. As such, where impact data may not be available, this Fund is open to other ways of capturing interim results or measurements (e.g., self-reported data) and particularly welcomes new ideas on how to tackle this issue.
All submitted research proposals will be reviewed in a standardized manner by both the Fund manager and the Advisory Council. Reviewers will assess proposals against the following key criteria to determine which proposals will ultimately receive funding. Please note that the selection criteria below are provided to guide award selection and are not intended to exclude prospective applicants should they not meet each and every criterion.
The Fund's Principles
Priority will be given to those proposals that demonstrate how the Fund’s core principles, as articulated below, will be incorporated into research plans.
Equity: Given the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on historically marginalized or excluded communities globally, the Fund is committed to ensuring that equity is core to the work we support and we prioritize equity as an essential principle. The WHO defines equity as the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically. Equity includes the shifting of power to the communities of focus, shifting narratives and language to be representative and inclusive of all experiences and identities. Thus, this Fund is interested in proposals that focus on reaching historically marginalized or excluded populations globally and are authentically considerate, aware of, and proactively addressing the significant barriers those populations experience.
Community Engagement: We believe one way to achieve equity is ensuring authentic community engagement throughout this work. From research design through to research implementation and dissemination of findings, we highly encourage all applicants to proactively engage and authentically partner with the communities with whom they are working. This engagement would include seeking to understand the obstacles, potential solutions and assets to build on, from the perspective of the community – ensuring that their voices, perspectives, and experiences are centered in the work. This also includes sharing resources with the community, as with any other partners. The Fund will not finance proposals that appear to be extractive in nature vis a vis the communities they seek to work in or learn from; we very much encourage applications from individuals and institutions representative of these same communities.
Interdisciplinary Collaboration: This Fund highly encourages interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas from outside traditional disciplines. While not exhaustive, example researchers and disciplines that this Fund would be interested in seeing further integrated and supported include behavioral sciences, communications (including marketing), data sciences, technology, and public health. This Fund firmly believes that rigorous collaboration and partnership are at the heart of the truly bold and transformative approaches (and solutions) needed to address the complexity of today’s vaccination confidence and uptake challenges.
External Validity: Challenges and solutions to increasing COVID-19 vaccination confidence and uptake can often be context specific. While this Fund seeks to provide targeted support to both underserved and historically excluded or marginalized communities, this Fund’s priority is also to surface insights that are more universally valid and potentially scalable, at least within focus communities globally. In lay terms: the Fund would prefer to support research where the findings are potentially applicable to segments of the population or population cohorts rather than, for example, a single demographic within a single city.
Actionable Focus: Research should be immediately actionable and valuable for the global health community rather than highly theoretical. However, the Fund will consider projects that may not directly increase vaccinations in a particular community, but rather, for example, provide new approaches to increasing vaccination confidence that can be adapted to other settings/contexts or provide new insights on vaccination behavior that can be shared with and used by others.
Transparency and Information Sharing: This Fund recognizes that we can only truly maximize our impact by being transparent. Information sharing is a critical process; it will enable the global health community to effectively and efficiently collaborate to solve the toughest challenges around increasing vaccination confidence and uptake. This Fund is interested in supporting proposals that are committed to rapidly disseminating insights, data, and learnings from their work as public goods for implementers to utilize in the design and execution of their vaccination campaigns and to continue to advance the global agenda around vaccination confidence and uptake. Proposals that explicitly embrace open access and open data principles will be viewed favorably by the Fund.
Expectations of Grantees
- Participate in kick-off call with Fund manager.
- Submit a mid-term progress report and final report via a grant management platform. Reporting will be lightweight but meaningful and focus on reviewing anticipated versus actual outcomes, metrics, and milestones as submitted in the approved proposal.
- Attend at least two virtual meetings and phone calls to provide status updates on research progress. Specific dates for reviews will be communicated at the time of award and based on the proposed research plan’s timeline.
- Submit a plan of dissemination to share the results/findings.
Submission of Proposals
Key application requirements include:
- Project Title, Summary and Background/Rationale that articulate a key research gap and/or specifies a target population (making it clear why this research is novel and how it will add to the current body of understanding)
- Research Objectives and Methodology (ideally using interdisciplinary approaches) with timeline
- Measurement framework that outlines clear measures and intended plans for capturing data
- Dissemination plan
- Key project team members’ CVs/resumes
- Budget and budget narrative
The Fund will not support:
- Organizations that discriminate on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, disability, race, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, military service or status.
- Religious organizations, unless the particular program will benefit a large portion of a community without regard to religious affiliation and does not duplicate the work of other agencies in the community.
- Organizations that engage in
terrorist activities or are involved in any acts dangerous to human life
that are in violation of the criminal laws of any country where we
operate, in compliance with the U.S. Patriot Act as well as
international anti-terrorism rules.
Conduct of Research and Informed Consent:
- Research must be of sound scientific merit and conducted in conformity with all applicable laws and regulations, and generally accepted standards of research. No clinical studies will be funded by the Fund.
- All grantees must obtain, in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, any necessary approvals of any research protocol and any data privacy authorization to use and disclose personal health information, if applicable.
- All grantees must use an informed consent form with all research participants. These should be uploaded to the fund manager upon completion of the project.
Review & Notification Process
Applications will be reviewed by the Fund manager (housed at Global Impact) and the Advisory Council, an interdisciplinary group of domain experts from the vaccine confidence, public health, social media, and behavioral and data sciences fields. Successful applicants will be notified on a rolling basis. Applicants that have been selected to receive a grant will be notified of selection, and final award determination will be dependent upon successful completion of background check/vetting and receipt of all necessary bank account information.
The Fund’s RFP window will remain open through August 6, 2021 or until all available funds have been committed and exhausted. The Fund anticipates making quick determinations on most applications, ideally within several weeks of initial submission. The first reviews are anticipated to begin late-June 2021.
Issuance of this RFP does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Fund or the Alliance to Advance Health Online, nor does it commit the Fund or Alliance to Advance Health Online to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of applications. Further, the Fund reserves the right to reject any or all applications received.
Summary of Key Dates
|June 10, 2021||- RFP released|
|August 6, 2021||- Submission deadline|
|June 15 – August 20, 2021||- Selection and grant awards (rolling basis)|
|June 30, 2021 – January 31, 2022||- Research conducted|
|August – October 2021||- Light-touch mid-term review of funded research projects|
|February 15, 2022||- Final grantee reporting deadline|