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Call: Society, Integrity and Cyber-security

The submission deadline for this call has passed
Application deadline
15.03.2016 13:00
Full call title

A call for collaborative research projects on Society, Integrity and Cyber-security

Funding amount available:

The total funding requested must not exceed EUR 1,250,000 across all participating partners. We expect to receive proposals between EUR 750,000 and EUR 1,250,000. The funding available for this transnational call is set at EUR 4,2 million and we expect to fund up to five projects, subject to quality.

Project duration

Applications may be for projects with a minimum duration of three years and a maximum of four years.


NordForsk is administering the call in collaboration with the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). All applications must be submitted to the NordForsk online application system.

Responsible adviser: Sóley Morthens, Senior Adviser
Phone: +47 97415820

Responsible adviser: Kaisa Vaahtera, Senior Adviser
Phone: +47 91148694

Technical support: For technical support, please contact: or +47 905 51 520

Please contact the adviser of the national agencies with questions concerning national eligibility requirements.

Responsible adviser NWO:
Anne Westendorp

Responsible adviser ESRC:
Lyndy Griffin


The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB), Research Council of Norway (RCN), Academy of Finland (AKA), The Icelandic Centre for Research (Rannís), Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and NordForsk announce this call to strengthen research cooperation by funding joint research projects in the field of society, integrity and cyber-security.

Access to new technologies and new forms of data offers many opportunities to address the complex issues facing societies and individuals today, from healthcare to fostering economic growth. Similarly, access to increasingly rich and sophisticated data could help protect individuals and society at large by, for example, detecting and preventing terrorist activities or communicating risks. Interconnectedness has created great opportunities for advancement of society, at the same time, cyber-space creates a myriad of challenges. Due to its nature and complexity, it can act as an enabler for illicit activities or their planning and coordination; it also serves as a platform for a diversity of cyber-enabled crimes.

The increasing digitisation and connectivity of the economy, means that cyber-enabled crimes and other online antisocial activities are likely to have significant and potentially damaging impact. Better and more comprehensive cyber-security can help reduce risks and vulnerabilities. However, whilst technological approaches are critical, they need to rely on understanding human and societal factors including among others: values, behaviours, motivations, notions of individual freedom and privacy.

Technological advancement has had a great impact on the ways in which people communicate. Technology enables yet more interactions between individuals and groups across national, social and cultural boarders; it also enables law enforcement agencies to monitor these interactions to detect and prevent potential crimes. This raises important ethical questions of balance between democratic issues, such as freedom and respecting individual privacy and ensuring collective security in an age of rapid technological advancement. These debates are not new and are on-going in democratic societies across the globe. There is a lot of scope for academic research to feed into these debates from interdisciplinary perspectives, addressing broad issues such as norms, values, responsibilities, legitimacy, motives, risks, resilience, deterrence and many others.

Thematic framework

The remit of this call is to explore research questions on society, integrity and cyber-security. This highly topical theme seeks approaches from a variety of perspectives and social science disciplines, and enables and encourages multidisciplinary research. By bringing together excellent scholars from the participating countries, the joint research projects will stimulate innovative research in transnational cooperation and promote international collaboration in the research field of society, integrity and cyber-security.

This call raises a broad question of balance between ensuring collective security whilst upholding the democratic rights of individuals to freedom and privacy in the context of cyber-space. A large number of definitional, conceptual, legal, philosophical as well as technical issues are related to this question. There is also great scope for empirical comparative analysis that can help inform developing future scenarios and mitigate potential risks.

Proposals are invited for joint projects under the following priority themes, addressing key issues where true added value can be gained from collaboration. Through consultation with the research community in participating countries, the following research themes have been identified:

  1. Governance, norms and regulatory approaches
  2. Understanding behaviours
  3. Surveillance, privacy and data protection

Interdisciplinary research that cuts across the three themes is highly encouraged. Further details on these themes can be found below. We particularly welcome proposals for comparative research that is highly multidisciplinary and involves participation of non-academic research users - where appropriate.

1. Governance, norms and regulatory approaches

While it is a well-established truism that the state is responsible for delivering security for its citizens, it is however far less clear in the context of cyber-space what this notion of security might be and where the boundaries lie, and where physical boundaries do not exist, the issue of jurisdiction is highly debatable. Research is needed to inform effective approaches to good governance, legitimacy of decision making (including in the context of automated systems) and establishing regulatory approaches sensitive to individuals' freedoms and privacy. Research within this theme might consider, for example:

  • How do we best address the devolution of power and responsibilities in cyber-space? Where does the responsibility for protection lie? How do we measure the proportionality of responses?
  • What are the regulatory challenges associated with cyber-space and how might they be tackled (including issues around cross-border jurisdiction)?
  • How can security systems be designed to incorporate the needs of society and individuals while also taking into account regulatory approaches?
  • How is cyber-security connected to other areas and policies or even critical societal functions? Is it unique and therefore requires unique approaches or can it adopt approaches existing in other areas?

2. Understanding behaviours

The fluid and unbounded nature of cyber-space enables an unprecedented level of interpersonal and inter-group communication that also implies potential for malicious behaviour, be it cyber-attacks against individuals or organisations or planning and coordinating illicit activities to be conducted in a physical space. The diversity of actors operating in a cyber-space is vast; some need to be protected, others to be protected against. Understanding individual and interpersonal/inter group behaviours and motives, strategies and tactics of offenders and the vulnerabilities of victims, will help understand threats and foster a safer cyber environment for all. Research in this theme might help explore, for example:

  • Who are the main actors, where does their legitimacy come from and what is the nature of cyber-security expertise?
  • How can we develop user buy-in for security measures? Can users be empowered to be defenders of the systems they use?
  • What measures can help us understand better the behaviour of various groups (ordinary users and cybercriminals), their motives and incentives?
  • How do users make everyday decisions and what behaviours are important?
  • What is the political economy that drives cyber-criminalisation? How can we better understand the drivers of cyber-criminality in order to reduce it?
  • How do people conceptualise risks and what does this mean for their behaviours?

3. Surveillance, privacy and data protection

Surveillance and monitoring of individuals and groups in cyber-space has become one of the principal means of ensuring the security of societies from major threats like terrorism. Yet at the same time it may compromise individuals' rights to privacy and can also cause tensions within communities that are subjected to increased levels of surveillance. While offering many new and important advantages for the security of individuals, communities and nations at large, or at least the perception of doing so, the new generation of cyber-based surveillance holds unforeseen and poorly understood consequences which require further research. Interdisciplinary approaches are required to address the gaps in our knowledge to explore, for example:

  • To what extent and what kind of changes are likely to be introduced as a result of tensions between online surveillance and privacy? Will it affect the way that individuals and groups understand themselves, and the status and function of the knowledge they produce about themselves through security practices?
  • What are the main risks to individuals and society at large in cyber?space and how can we manage them effectively? What are the implications for critical societal functions?
  • What will be the social acceptability of surveillance in the name of security and how it is likely to evolve? Whether and how will it affect social norms and behaviours online and our attitudes to privacy and intimacy?
  • What approaches could be developed to increase our understanding of the flows of people, services, goods and resources in the context of global internet linked mobility when global flows are rather the norm than the exception? Who is responsible for data protection under circumstances of increased global flows that does not recognise boundaries?
  • How can we better understand transformations of informal social belonging as well as the new types of internet citizenship and privacy issues related to it?
Who is eligible to apply?

The scheme is open to applications from eligible researchers based at universities or research institutes in three or more of the subscribing countries, including at least one non-Nordic country. Researchers based at institutions located in the following countries are eligible to apply for funding, irrespective of their nationality: Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Projects must involve integrated collaboration between eligible researchers who have the expertise to undertake predominantly social science research within the specified theme.

Applicants must note that the national agencies retain the right to reject applications where they fail to comply with the eligibility procedures set out in their guidelines. If an application is ineligible with one national agency the complete project will be rejected by all the agencies concerned.

Applicants team and project leaders

Each project team must consist of three or more national teams (of which one national team must be non-Nordic). There must be one Project Leader to oversee the whole project, and each national team must have an identified Team Leader. The Project Leader will be responsible for carrying out and managing the project. S/he will be the contact point on behalf of all applicants and responsible for the administrative and financial management of the overall project, should it be funded. All Team Leaders are requested to send a letter of support.

All applicants and their institutions must fulfil national eligibility rules as set by the respective national funding agencies (see appendix 1). Any queries regarding eligibility funding rules should be directed to the relevant national agency.

Researchers from other countries may participate as international co-investigators as long as they bring with them sufficient funding to cover their role in the project or are eligible for funding under one of the subscribing agencies' rules. Where appropriate, applicants are required to specify the sources of funding for international co-investigators.

Project teams are encouraged to engage with relevant research practitioners in developing their proposal and where appropriate to include them as co-investigators or project partners.


Proposals are invited for projects with a value of between EUR 750,000 to EUR 1,250,000. Applications may be for projects with a minimum duration of three years and a maximum of four years.

The funders have an overall budget of EUR 4,2 million and expect to fund up to five projects, subject to quality. We expect to fund a balanced portfolio; however scientific quality remains the priority criteria for evaluation, and there is therefore no commitment to funding a project in all thematic areas.

Eligible costs

All costs must be eligible according to the eligibility rules as set by the respective national funding agency (see appendix I). Please read these National eligibility requirements to verify the eligibility of specific budget items according to the rules of your national funding organisation.

Researchers from other countries and non-academic partners are invited to participate in the project. They are asked to demonstrate the sources from which their participation will be funded.

The estimated budget must be given in Euros only and be tabulated according to the application template provided. For applicants from countries outside the Euro-zone, please convert your budget to Euros and indicate the exchange rate used.

Submission of applications

All proposals must be completed in English and must follow the proposal structure indicated in the application template available on the website of NordForsk.

Applicants must ensure that the application contains sufficient and consistent information for evaluation. Incomplete applications and applications submitted not using the form will be rejected. Attachments to the proposals are not permitted, unless specifically requested in the application form.

Important note: when writing your proposal, take into account that it will be read by both academic experts and a broadly composed evaluation panel which includes non-academic users of the research.

Proposals should be submitted electronically through the NordForsk Call and Application Portal no later than 15 March 2016 13.00 (CET). In order to submit the application form the Project Leader must register as a user on the NordForsk Call and Application Portal and create an application draft. The Project Leader must submit the application form and the annexes on behalf of the research consortia.

Only one application form per proposal may be submitted and must contain information on the following items.

Proposals should include all supporting documents as requested below.

  1. NordForsk proposal form (must be based on the template)
  2. Research plan (ten pages max)
  3. Management Plan (two pages max)
  4. National Financial forms
  5. Justification of resources (two pages max)
  6. Pathways to Impact (two pages max)
  7. CV (two pages max for each named researcher)
  8. Letters of support

Research ethics

All projects that receive funding must maintain high ethical standards (good research ethics and adequate consideration of ethical questions of relevance to the project). Proposals must include a description of the relevant legal and ethical frameworks and procedures needed to perform the research.

Gender policy

The funding partners actively promote gender balance among researchers as well as gender perspectives within the research activity as important aspects of research quality. All projects must explain how gender perspectives are incorporated or given consideration in the project. Please consult the NordForsk policy guidelines on gender policy.

Open access

Proposals must include plans for contributing to open science in accordance with Science Europe Principles on Open Access to Research Publications. National funding rules regarding funding for open access publications should be adhered to.

Evaluation process

The process of evaluating the proposals will be administrated by NordForsk in cooperation with the funding partners of the call.

Only applications which meet all the conditions set out in this call text are eligible and will be included in the evaluation procedure.

The evaluation procedure leading up to a funding decision is the following:

  • Eligibility: Proposals will be examined to check eligibility and adherence to the requirements of this call. Only applications which meet all the conditions set out in this call text will be eligible and will be included in the evaluation procedure.
  • External evaluation: Eligible proposals will be submitted for evaluation to external, independent referees, academic and non-academic, for peer review. The examination and review of submitted proposals will be led by NordForsk, using peer reviewers suggested by participating funding agencies.
  • Rebuttal: The peer review comments, anonymised to ensure the identity of reviewers is maintained, will be sent to the Project Leaders for their response before the evaluation panel assesses the applications. All Project Leaders will have the opportunity to formulate a two page response after receiving the reviewers' comments.
  • Joint statement and rating in panel meeting: A joint evaluation panel will be established, consisting of academic experts in the field and research users. The panel will prepare a consensus evaluation report (joint written statement) on each proposal based on the proposal, the external reviews and the comments of the Project Leader. The panel will rate the proposals based on the evaluation criteria and make a funding recommendation.
  • Ranking in joint programme committee: The joint statement from the panel with scientific rating will be submitted to the Joint Programme Committee consisting of representatives of all funding partners. The Joint Programme Committee will make a final funding recommendation based on the evaluation and recommendations of the panel.
  • Funding decision: The NordForsk Board will sign off the funding decision made by the Joint Programme Committee based on the evaluation process in autumn 2016.

NordForsk's Guidelines on Impartiality will be applied in order to avoid conflicts of interest in prioritisation and funding decisions.

The evaluation panel's joint written statement will be sent to the applicants via NordForsk.

Evaluation criteria

All eligible proposals will be assessed against six sets of criteria:

  1. Relevance to the theme of the call
  2. Scientific quality of the research proposal
  3. Quality of the research groups
  4. Value for money
  5. Research ethics
  6. Research impact
Funding administration

Applicants will be notified of the outcome of the funding decision, and NordForsk will sign contracts with the approved research projects and their host organisations (Project administrator) shortly thereafter. This contract will set out the specific funding rates and details. Preliminary start-up of projects awarded funding will take place in late 2016.

The grant will be disbursed to this institution, and a consortium agreement regulating the rights and obligations of the various institutions/partners involved in the project must be drawn up.

Implementation of the project will be monitored through annual progress reports comprising a scientific progress report and a financial report. A final report must be submitted to NordForsk at the end of the funding period.

The Project Leader will be responsible for the implementation of human resource strategies for researchers in keeping with the basic principles of the EU Charter for Researchers and the EU Code for the Recruitment of Researchers.

Tentative timeline


  • Announce call for proposals: 1 December 2015
  • Closing date for proposals: 15 March 2016
  • Eligibility check, review and rebuttal procedure: March - July 2016
  • Evaluation Panel: July - August 2016
  • Decisions announced: October 2016
  • Grants commence: November 2016
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