In January, we announced the completion of the first two rounds of peer review and ethics review in the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants competition. Last month, we announced the development of the SSRC’s Social Data Research Review Framework, a review infrastructure to facilitate academic review at the speed of social media, while abiding by the highest standards of research quality and ethics. Today, we announce that we are nearly finished with our third round of review, a process that to date has included researchers and peer reviewers representing every continent but Antarctica.

Global representivity is a major goal for this project. Social media scholarship must strive to be as global as social media itself—involving a diverse group of both scholars and reviewers. Historically though, the distribution of resources for this social data research has tended to favor scholars working in and focusing on the United States and Europe. Overcoming this inequity will not result from a smattering of small-scale projects, but from structural efforts to eliminate barriers to global participation by creating equitable and secure pathways to social media research.

The Social Media and Democracy Research Grants competition seeks to furnish exactly this structural change. We at the SSRC, along with our partners Social Science One and Facebook, set out to create a transparent pathway for scholars to be given secure access to social media data—access based not on location or connections to private industry or a small number of elite institutions, but on the basis of their professional qualifications, the strength of their research questions and methods, and their commitment to accountability, transparency, and excellence.

Alongside this project’s push toward broad structural equity, we, with our partners, are working on a number of efforts to accelerate international project participation. One Social Media and Democracy Research Grant funding stream is dedicated to supporting research focused on regions outside of North America and Europe. And our partners at Social Science One have taken this project to Johannesburg, Taiwan, Amsterdam, São Paulo, and New Delhi to recruit international commission members to drive a global research agenda and to encourage international applicants.

We are encouraged by our partners’ progress toward implementing the necessary technical measures to help protect subject privacy and connect researchers with data. We look forward to announcing the projects that this crucial initiative will fund and securely connect with data to work toward more equitable research conditions for studying social media and its impacts on societies across the globe.