Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Announcing the next Knight News Challenge: Data

May 16, 2012, 11:45 a.m., Posted by John S. Bracken

numbers

Photo Credit: Flickr user Koen Vereeken

The Knight News Challenge is being offered three times this year, in short, focused rounds to better mirror the pace of innovation. Winners of Round 1, which focused on networks, will be announced June 18. Here, Journalism and Media Innovation Program Director John Bracken gives a preview on the upcoming Round 2.

We’re excited to announce that the next Knight News Challenge will focus on data.

Starting May 31 through June 20, we’ll be looking for ideas that help unlock the power of data, by collecting, processing, visualizing or otherwise making it available, understandable and actionable. Applicants - whether for-profit startups or non-profit ventures - will have 21 days to submit their projects.  

We had planned to make the second round a completely open call for innovative news ideas. But we received feedback from the advisers we gathered last month to review News Challenge applications that themes encourage sharper proposals and better ideas, and we decided to take their advice.

So, why data?

The world has always been complex, but we are now challenged with making sense of the rapidly increasing amounts of information that we are creating. According to IBM, nine-tenths of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. Cisco predicts that information generated by mobile devices will hit 130 exabytes in 2016 -  that’s the equivalent of 520,000 Libraries of Congress in one year. A report from McKinsey anticipates that the amount of data we generate will increase 40% annually. Facebook users alone add a billion pieces of content every 24 hours.

Knight News Challenge: Data is a call for making sense of this onslaught of information. “As data sits teetering between opportunity and crisis, we need people who can shift the scales and transform data into real assets,” wrote Roger Ehrenberg earlier this year.

Or, as danah boyd has put it, “Data is cheap, but making sense of it is not.”

The CIA, the NBA’s Houston Rockets, startups like BrightTag and Personal (“every detail of your life is data”) -- they’re all trying to make sense out of data. We hope that this News Challenge will uncover similar innovators discovering ways for applying data towards informing citizens and communities.

We’re looking for digital-age versions of Red Blaik-- the College Football Hall of Fame coach who mentored 20 future head coaches, including Vince Lombardi. In his biography of Lombardi, David Maraniss wrote:

Blaik’s signature talent was using all this data to create something clean and simple. He had what Lombardi called “the great knack” of knowing what offensive plan to use against what defense and then “discarding the immaterial and going with the strength.” All the detailed preparations resulted not in a mass of confusing statistics and plans, but in the opposite, paring away the extraneous, reducing and refining until all that was left was what was needed for that game against that team.

We need help making things “clean and simple” and “paring away the extraneous” if we are going to remain aware of and engaged with what is transpiring around us. What are the implications -- ethically, economically, socially -- of having access to so much information? How does the flood of data change best be channeled to making us better citizens? What stories can we tell? How will we act differently based on what we learn? What tools and products can we create out of this raw material? How do we consume data responsibly and healthily?

It is a big topic. My colleague Michael Maness and I will be fielding questions about this next News Challenge in a Google Hangout at 11 a.m. EST May 22 on the Knight Foundation page.  You can also learn more here or by reaching out to us at newschallenge@knightfoundation.org, at @knightfdn, or in the comments below this post.

Here are a few things to remember as we go into Round 2 on data:

Who can enter? Anyone, anywhere of any age. The challenge is open to nonprofits, for-profits or individuals of any age, anywhere in the world.

What are the guidelines for for-profits? There are several funding options including grants, PRIs and equity investment. More Here.

What if I don’t want my idea to be public? We believe ideas improve when they’re publicly available. But we’ll accept a closed application. Write your project, name and phone number in the subject line of an e-mail. Paste the answers to our application questions in the body. Send to kncclosed@knightfoundation.org and we’ll add it to the pile.

What are the News Challenge IP terms? If you win, you’ll own copyright on your intellectual property. But under most funding options, you’ll be required to release what you build as open source. More details: Grants to nonprofits have a strict requirement: any software developed with grant money must be made open source under a GNU General Public License. The same is true for grants to for-profit companies. The business receiving a grant agrees to bind itself to the open source license it owns as if it were a licensee. If a Program Related Investment is made, only the initial release must be open source, and future versions can be licensed in different ways. At the end of the funding period, the company can pay back the funds it received or Knight can take a stake in the company. An Enterprise Fund equity investment has no open-source requirements.

I applied in previous challenges but didn’t win. Apply again, as long as your project fits the data theme.

Answers to more questions are in our FAQ.