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EU funding to tackle the problem of fake news
An EU-funded researcher at the University of Oxford will receive top-up funding to create an online tool to assess suspicious social media accounts and counter fake news. Prof Philip Howard is one of seven UK-based researchers who will receive top-up funding to explore the commercial or innovation potential of the results of their EU-funded research. Other topics cover health, science and technology, including work that will help control exhaust gases or a novel coating that regulates heat.
Prof Howard and his team are trying to shed light onto the ways politicians use online social networks and the world of political algorithms.
"The majority of young people these days get their political news over the social media," says Phil Howard, Professor of Internet Studies and ERC beneficiary at the Oxford Internet Institute. "It's very difficult to grow up without developing some political opinion that has been shaped by the content you see from your friends and family over a social network platform."
The proof of concept top-up grants of the European Research Council (ERC), worth €150,000 (£127,000) each and open to ERC grant holders only, can be used, for example, to establish intellectual property rights, investigate business opportunities or conduct technical validation.
In total, in this latest round, 51 researchers will receive the grant. They are based in Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Separately, the ERC Synergy Grant scheme will be re-launched in the ERC Work Programme 2018. The aim of these grants is to address ambitious research questions that can only be answered by the coordinated work of a small group of two to four principal investigators and their teams, bringing together their complementary skills, knowledge and resources. The scheme is open to all researchers from anywhere in the world, based in Europe or in an associated country.
In 2016, UK researchers were the biggest recipients of the ERC's proof of concept (28) grants – which puts the UK top of the table and well ahead of Germany with 18 proof of concept recipients.
The ERC is the first European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Its work is part of the wider €77bn (£65bn) EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. It offers three core grant schemes: starting, consolidator and advanced. Starting grants encourage young talented research leaders to gain independence in Europe and to build their own careers. Consolidator grants back up researchers who want to establish their research teams and continue developing a successful career in Europe. Advanced grants allow outstanding research leaders to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk projects in Europe. The scheme targets researchers who have already established themselves as top independent research leaders. The next deadline for advanced grants is 31 August 2017. The ERC also provides top-up innovation funding, known as proof of concept. The next deadline for application is 5 September 2017.
This year, the ERC is celebrating 10 years with events taking place all across the world, including in London (Imperial College) and Leeds (White Rose University Consortium) in June.
Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.