Thanks to generous support from the German Postcode Lotterie, AlgorithmWatch is offering 5 fellowships in algorithmic accountability reporting. The fellowships will last for 6 months, starting in January. We will run two other calls for applications, in the spring and fall of 2023.
The fellowship has two main goals.
Firstly, it will increase the amount of reporting on automated systems in the European Union. There are still too many of them that have yet to be scrutinized by journalists. Journalists should also talk to more people impacted, especially the ones that we rarely hear about.
Secondly, we will share the experiences gained in reporting these stories. Algorithmic accountability is hard, and not every journalist can take on a complex and opaque automated system. We hope that we will be able to make it a little bit easier by sharing methodologies and tips. We will also contribute to spreading the research being done in Germany on the topic.
The call for application has ended. Do subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on social media to be alerted when the next round of applications opens.
What the fellowship entails
The fellowship will run for 6 months, from January 2023 to June 2023. Each fellow will be given a monthly allowance of €1,200.
Fellows are expected to report on one story per month on average, in English, about the automatization of society. The time commitment that is required depends on the story, of course, but should not be more than 20 hours per month, on average.
We understand the automatization of society to be the following:
- algorithms deployed in the fields of police, justice administration, care, education, energy provision, welfare distribution, etc.
- the impact of automated systems on daily life, for instance routing systems sending traffic on restricted roads, a social network’s algorithm that restricts the visibility of some users, automated translation engines that make systematic errors, etc. Or the perception of algorithms by the general population, even if these perceptions are not based in fact.
- the ecosystem that allows for the deployment of automated systems, for instance how training data sets are built and maintained, how academics might be wooed by Big Tech, how politicians attempt to regulate the field, etc.
Topics that are not relevant to the automatization of society include:
- reviews of products (e.g. “here is why GPT-12 will change how we communicate”)
- high-level analyses of a technology (e.g. “is AI good or bad?”)
- reports on automation in an industrial context (e.g. “how the port of Hamburg is automating container management”). However, industrial automation often spills over into society at large, by impacting work schedules, power relations between employer and employee, etc. It is all about the angle of the reporting.
We understand that this kind of reporting is hard. Fellows are not expected to deliver a fully-fledged story each month, but are expected to at least report on their attempt each month. Sometimes, understanding why a story could not be made is as important as the story itself.
Fellows are expected to publish the stories that pass editorial standards under a Creative Commons “Attribution” license. They will be free to choose the media outlet of publication, and will be able to sell their stories if they so wish.
We know that writing in English at a professional level is not something most European school systems prepare for, and we only require applicants to have a B2 level of written English. AlgorithmWatch will provide fellows with training to improve their written English skills as necessary, and we will edit the copy before publication. Fellows will receive personalized support from Celine Bijleveld, a former editor and producer at The Guardian. Celine has over two decades of experience in written media and currently teaches journalism at the Press Association.
Who can apply
Any person above 18 with some reporting experience is welcome to apply. We very strongly encourage persons from minoritized or marginalized groups and communities to apply.
Applicants do not need to have a background in computer science. Just like you do not need a degree in climate science to report on the climate crisis, the effects of automated systems can be researched by non-technical people.
Applicants do not have to be professional journalists. We welcome people who are not professional journalists to apply, especially but not limited to PhD students, civic-minded technologists, activists, librarians and community organizers. Applicants who need training in journalism will be provided with a personal trainer or online courses, as best fit their needs. AlgorithmWatch might require that an applicant go through an online journalism course (paid for by AlgorithmWatch) before starting the program.
There are, however, some things that we require from the applicants:
- Residence in a country of the European Union or Switzerland.
- Written English at a B2 level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. (Some services offer free online tests to assess your level).
- At least 2 articles published (or reports aired, or audio segments broadcast, or podcasts released) in a European media outlet. It does not have to be in English, and the media outlet can be anything from a professional publication to a high school blog. If need be, you can write an original piece for the application, between 3,000 and 5,000 characters in length, in English.
- A very strong interest in the topic of automated decision-making.
- The ability to work autonomously.
How to apply
Applications are closed.
Are you offering an employment contract?
No. The allowance is a stipend, not a salary.
Then what about vacations, sick or maternity leave, etc.?
Such events will have to be discussed on a case-by-case basis.
What about taxes?
The stipend is tax-exempt under German law. Fellows should verify that the tax exemption applies in their country of residence as well. Fellows are responsible for all taxes and fees that may apply in their country.
Is the allowance indexed on inflation?
No. The total allowance is €7,200, disbursed in six monthly installments, and we cannot change the amount.
Who will own the copyright to the reporting I do?
You will remain sole owner of your work, but will have to publish it under a CC-BY license.
How much am I expected to work?
20 hours per month, on average. Some stories will require less time to make, others more.
Will I work together will AlgorithmWatch?
You will work autonomously, like a freelance journalist. Once a month, you will discuss your story idea with AlgorithmWatch journalists (who might suggest story ideas, too) and decide on the angle, methodology and format of your story. Based on this, you will research and write the story yourself. Of course, AlgorithmWatch will provide guidance, assistance and advice when needed.
Will I work together with other fellows?
If a story lends itself to a cross-border report, we will work together and share bylines.
Will there be in-person meetings?
All communication is expected to take place online, but we will try to organize meetings, for instance by attending relevant conferences together.
Do you provide office space for fellows?
Can I receive the stipend for less than 6 months?
We expect fellows to complete the full 6 months of the program, but we can offer some flexibility.
Is there an age limit?
Anyone above 18 is welcome to apply. Previous experience with typewriters is not a hindrance.
Can I apply although I’m not a journalist?
Yes. We are looking for people who have experience writing articles, but college education in journalism or a previous position in an established newsroom is not a requirement.
Can I apply if I do not have a work permit (e.g. asylum-seeker)?
Yes, but you should check that you are allowed to receive a stipend.
Can I apply several times?
Yes. You are free to apply in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, even if you applied and/or were a fellow in the 1st.
Can I apply if I live outside of the European Union or Switzerland?
Are residents of the United Kingdom eligible?
Will AlgorithmWatch reimburse the travel expenses I incur while working on a story?
No. The stipend cannot be augmented to cover any other expenditure. However, we will work with the fellows if they need to obtain extra funding, for instance by applying to other grants.
AlgorithmWatch is an advocacy organization. Will I have to do advocacy?
No. Reporting and advocacy are separated activities.