Magic Grant Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently  Asked Questions – Bicoastal Magic Grants

What constitutes a bicoastal team?

The Brown Institute is housed at two world class universities —  Stanford on the west coast and Columbia on the east. This split is one of the most unique features of our organization, and we encourage mixing between the two schools. We are particularly interested in supporting “bicoastal” Magic Grants proposals, consisting of teams that include a genuine presence and collaboration at each university. Bicoastal projects are most successful when there is parity across both campuses — both in expertise, funding, and personnel.

In terms of evaluation, bicoastal proposals will first be screened by reading committees on both campuses. If a project is selected as a finalist on each campus, the team members from each campus will present their proposal independently — with Stanford team members presenting the bicoastal project at Stanford, and Columbia members presenting at Columbia.

For bicoastal projects, can Stanford team members use funding awarded to the Columbia side of the project (and visa-versa)?

Bicoastal teams manage separate budgets, one for expenses assigned to the Columbia portion of the team and one for those accrued by the Stanford half. Bicoastal projects will submit two budgets as part of their proposal, outlining expected expenses on each coast. Budgets/spending should be specific to each side of the Institute (Columbia or Stanford), and cannot include expenses accrued by the other campus. For example, the Columbia budget cannot include personnel expenses, travel or equipment costs, or any reimbursements for individuals housed or appointed at Stanford.

Frequently Asked Questions – Stanford Magic Grants

Who is eligible to apply for a Magic Grant at Stanford?

Anyone with an official Stanford appointment is eligible to apply for a Magic Grant. Stanford Postdocs, Faculty, and Visiting Students are eligible to apply and have been awarded Magic Grants in the past. We encourage projects to focus on the students, both in the budget and as named individuals on the proposal.

What can funds be used for?

Funds can be used for anything needed to complete the project as long as the funds are used according to Stanford policy. Only those with official Stanford appointments may receive salary support. MG teams may pay outside vendors or individuals for task driven work however they cannot provide salary or stipends to non-Stanford appointed individuals. Students, undergraduate or graduate, can be hired as “temporary employees.” Graduate students who are international cannot be hired as temporary employees due to visa regulations. Non-international Graduate students can be hired for a set number of hours a week depending on the percentage of their research assistantship.

On your budget, do not include indirect costs/overhead. Students are urged to consult with their faculty advisor(s) and the university administration when preparing their budget.

Can a proposal have only one member?

Yes, however, a team of two or more is preferred

Can team members be from different departments?

Team members on the same proposal can come from  different departments, however, it should be apparent why the named individuals on the proposal are best suited to accomplish the project.

Can individuals or teams submit more than one proposal?

Individuals (and teams) may be named on multiple proposals, however, each individual/team is only eligible to receive funding for one project per year.

Who needs to submit academic transcripts?

All primary team members need to submit undergraduate and graduate transcripts as part of their proposal.

Who needs to submit resumes/cvs?

All primary team members need to submit resumes/CVs.

Who should submit letters of support?

At Stanford, letters of support should come from faculty members, preferably written by the advisors of the team members, if any. If both team members have the same advisor, one letter suffices.

What happens if one or both applicants on a winning team already have financial support?

The Brown Institute is fine with “Magic Grant” funds being coupled with outside funding, especially if existing support is compatible with carrying out the proposed project. For example, if a student has a fellowship or a research assistantship from his/her advisor to work on the proposed project, we welcome this as a partial offset of cost. Costs not funded by the Brown Institute should not be included in the budget. It also does not count against the $150,000 maximum budget. However, you should explain in your budget justification that you already have support and this particular item is therefore not included in the budget.

Can “Magic Grant” recipients apply for a project continuation after the first year?

Yes, “Magic Grants” may reapply for continued support, however, a second year of funds should be requested to support new aspects of the project and cannot be used for maintenance or be viewed as finishing funds. Proposed projects should be designed to reach their goals within one year. Follow-on proposals will have to compete with new proposals and go through the same application and review process.

Frequently Asked Questions – Columbia Magic Grants

Who is eligible to apply for a Magic Grant at Columbia?

Anyone may apply for grant funding on the Columbia side of the Brown Institute. Priority will be given to Columbia faculty, research staff, students, alumni, as well as affiliates of School of Journalism and the University.

What can funds be used for?

Funds at Columbia can be used on personnel, equipment, web expenses, travel, conference and speaking fees, design, and other miscellaneous costs related to the project. All expenditures must comply with Columbia policies and guidelines.

Can a proposal have only one member?

Proposals may come from sole applicants — though most projects require time and effort from multiple individuals. The Institute prefers that all members that will be assisting on a project be named in the application.

Can team members be from different departments?

The Brown Institute is interdisciplinary in nature and we will accept proposals from any and all organizations/centers/departments that meet the core requirements of the CfP. For university-based projects, we have a track record of funding projects from specific areas of the university, including journalism, engineering, the school of the arts, and architecture.

Can individuals or teams submit more than one proposal?

Individuals and teams may only be named on a single proposal; however, advisors may be named or included on multiple proposals.

Who needs to submit academic transcripts?

All named individuals on the proposal must submit academic transcripts that were issued within five years of the proposal submission.

Are Magic Grants full-time commitments?

Magic Grants can be awarded and completed in a variety of ways. Some projects are approached as side-projects, receiving the bulk of work on evenings and weekends on a part-time basis. Others are completed in six-months, with team members appointed as full-time employees of the University.

Who needs to submit resumes/cvs?

All primary team members need to submit resumes/CVs.

What is the residency requirement at Columbia?

The Brown Institute at Columbia seeks applicants from teams of students, faculty, alumni, or members of New York City’s larger creative and research communities working in areas relevant to media and technology (and specifically journalism, communications, the digital humanities, statistics, computer and data science, engineering, design and business). Magic Grant recipients, however, must spend their time working on their grants at Columbia during the 2020-21 academic year, assuming they are in the NYC area. In addition, Attendance to quarterly “All-Hands” review meetings in California and New York is mandatory. For these meetings, the Brown Institute will cover lodging and travel costs.

Should projects with additional support or partner organizations include this information with their proposal?

For proposals that already have committed financial support from an outside organization, please include a letter of commitment. Projects already receiving support are not at a disadvantage to those without.

Can Magic Grant recipients apply for a project continuation after the first year?

Yes, “Magic Grants” may reapply for continued support, however, a second year of funds should be requested to support new aspects of the project and cannot be used for maintenance or be viewed as finishing funds. Proposed projects should be designed to reach their goals within one year. Follow-on proposals will have to compete with new proposals and go through the same application and review process.

In addition to reapplying for a second-year grant, select grants may be invited by the Brown Institute directors to apply for a “Flagship” grant. Flagship grants are awarded through a separate evaluation process focused on scaling existing grants, and may receive funds amounting to $500k.

If I am a student expected to begin study in the MA or MS program at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in the fall, am I eligible to apply?

Unfortunately, incoming full-time journalism school students cannot apply for a Magic Grant due to time constraints of the academic program. A Magic Grant, however, is a great way to continue your education after your MS/MA. Ph.D. candidates are invited to apply, and several have been awarded grants — we particularly encourage applications that extend their research in new ways.

Who should submit letters of support?

At Columbia, students and alumni can submit letters from their advisor or another faculty member familiar with their work. Letters from non-faculty should identify the recommender’s relationship to the team members. Team members applying on the Columbia side who do not have an affiliation with Columbia should get letters from advisors and/or peers working in the field.

What are the start and end dates for project funding cycle?

Magic Grants can begin as early as July 1. Typically, projects begin in September or October, alongside the academic calendar. Project funds must be used within one calendar year, although extensions will be granted in certain circumstances upon written request.

If one or both members of a winning team already have financial support, should this support be included in the budget?

No. Costs not funded by the Brown Institute should not be included in the budget. It also does not count against the $150,000 maximum budget. However, you should explain in your budget justification that you already have support and this particular item is therefore not included in the budget.

Does at least one member of my team have to be affiliated with Columbia University?

Teams applying to Columbia’s half of the Brown Institute do not need to have a formal affiliation with the university. Each year, one or two funded projects come from outside of Columbia entirely. This flexibility has allowed us to support projects that clearly fall within our mission and are unlikely to be funded elsewhere. Again, priority is given to projects that mix journalism and technology in some way, but we happily also support other disciplines that deal in storytelling.