Please note that application deadline has passed. Deadline was 1 May 2020, 1 PM.

Call for expressions of interest in 'Algorithms, Data and Democracy – a Strong Democracy in a Digitalised World'

Digitalisation, rapidly growing amounts of data, artificial intelligence (AI), data-driven automation and decision-making – these are some of the issues which will lead to profound changes throughout much of Danish society over the coming years.

With a total grant of DKK 100 million over ten years, VILLUM FONDEN and VELUX FONDEN wish to advance citizen-centred, sustainable democratic development in the data-driven Denmark of the future. 

To that end, the two foundations are launching a call for a project bringing together research, policy, outreach and stakeholder engagement to address the impacts, opportunities and challenges of digitalisation in relation to democracy.  

The scope of the initiative is the democratic challenge inherent in decision making being automated by means of data and algorithms that are incomprehensible to most people. Such decisions impact both the individual and society as a whole.

The vision of the initiative is for Denmark, by the next decade, to be at the international forefront of enlightened digital citizenship and the safeguarding of democratic values and legitimacy in a world of algorithms and data.

The object of the initiative is to create and bring together solutions – societal, institutional, organisational, and, not least, technical solutions – to address challenges and develop potentials serving the best interests of democracy and all sections of society. 

The project's focus must be the use of data and algorithms in the most important democratic institutions of Danish society. Key areas include the roles of traditional and new media, policy development and the interaction between the public sector and the citizens.

The project's research component must be a close, interdisciplinary collaboration between top researchers within computer science (broadly defined) and within the humanities/social sciences. Without computer science, humanities/social sciences research findings will have no impact in the real-world technical development and application of algorithms. Without the humanities/social sciences, the solutions of computer science will not be informed by detailed studies of societal, institutional, organisational and political challenges and opportunities. 

The project's outreach component will bring together the research component with a widely ranging high-visibility dissemination and policy component designed to engage citizens, public- and private-sector decision-makers, civil society organisations, IT professionals and other stakeholders. Read more about the outreach component here

Who may apply?

The project must be led by a recognised researcher in close collaboration with other researchers (co-PIs). Both PI and co-PIs must be associate or full professor.

It is a requirement that the project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between computer science (broadly defined) and the humanities/social sciences. The project's principal investigators must between them have documented experience within both computer science and the humanities/social sciences at a high international level and be affiliated with one or more Danish universities.


The deadline for submission of expressions of interest is 13:00 on 1 May 2020. Expressions of interest must be submitted through our application portal.

How much?

The project can be granted up to DKK 100 million, of which DKK 20 million is earmarked for the outreach component.

You may consequently apply for up to DKK 80 million. For more details see the budget guide below. 

How long?

A grant runs for 10 years.

special terms and conditions

The project will partner with Lisbeth Knudsen and David Budtz Pedersen, who will head the outreach activities. Outreach will include dissemination, policy contributions and the creation of an informed basis for societal debate. An important object is to ensure that the research of the project is inspired by current debate and vice versa.

The project is to appoint a steering committee chaired by the PI and consisting of the co-PIs as well as Lisbeth Knudsen and David Budtz Pedersen. Read more about the outreach component here

The project will also appoint an international advisory board consisting of leading researchers in relevant fields. The advisory board will advise the steering committee annually on matters such as allocation of the DKK 40 million to be distributed over the project period. 

Prior to any grant award, the project partners are expected to conclude a cooperation agreement setting out decision-making procedures and the division of responsibilities.

Guidelines for the expression of interest

An expression of interest consists of:

A project description of max. 5 pages (each of 2,400 characters incl. spaces), not counting references. The project description must be written in English and should include:

  • The overall project's hypothesis, methodology, aims, interdisciplinary research questions and relationship to state-of-the-art research in the field.
  • A brief presentation of the individual work packages and the link between them.
  • A brief description of why interdisciplinarity is required to answer the research questions. 
  • An argument for why answers to these particular questions will address the initiative's overall aim.
  • Reflections on how the project might interact with the outreach component. Please describe organisational arrangements and activities to facilitate cooperation. 
  • Reflections on how to allocate the additional funds for extension and capacity-building.
  • A description of project management and organisation.

Estimated budget using the budget template, broken down by both work packages and partners.

CV with publication list for the PI and co-PIs:

  • Concise CV and publication list (both in English) with key publications highlighted (max. 2 pages).
budget guide

The budget must be broken down as follows:

  • Up to DKK 40 million of the total grant to be spent on specific activities undertaken by the partners.
  • Up to DKK 40 million of the total grant must subsequently be allocated during the project period to extension and capacity-building of relevant parts of the project. This will enable the project to evolve in response to insights, outcomes and opportunities as they arise. The expression of interest must include the reflections of the partners on the best process to allocate these funds.


The grant may cover: 

  • PhD and postdoctoral fellowships. 
  • Salaries for other scientific staff, including limited research buyout for permanently-employed scientific staff (max. 10% of the total amount applied for).
  • Salaries for project coordination/administration staff.
  • Project expenses, including operating expenses, publications, meetings and conferences.
  • Itemised overhead costs (up to 15% of the amount applied for).
Frequently asked questions


Should the 40 million DKK allocated to specified activities for the applicant and partners be distributed over all 10 years?

 -As a rule, yes. The distribution of funds over time should be consistent with the plans for capacity building.  

Should the 40 million DKK allocated to capacity building during the project be a part of the budget in the Expression of Interest?

 -Yes, but the level of detail will naturally not be the same as for the specified activities.

Is it allowed for postdocs and Ph.D. students paid by the grant to contribute to teaching to a limited extent?

The foundations allow all researchers whose salary is paid in full by the grant to spend up to 20% of their time on teaching and supervision at the Master's or Ph.D. level at their institution. 

Project description

Do references count as part of the 5-page maximum for the project description?

 -No, the project description can be up to 5 pages (of 2400 characters) not including references. The references must be included in the PDF with the project description.

How do illustrations and figures count in the 5-pages for the project description?

 -Text on illustrations and figures count as part of the maximum of characters. The figure itself does not.


Is there a template to be used for the CVs?

 -No there is not. The following is required for PI and co-PIs: Short CV and publication list (both in English) with key publications highlighted (max. 2 pages per. person).

How many pages can CV and publication list be?

 -CV and publication list may be up to 2 pages in total for each person.

Should I add CV for all project participants?

 -No, only for the PI and co-PIs.

Cooperation agreements

Should cooperation agreements with the project partners be uploaded with the application?

 -No, this is not a requirement at this stage of the application process.

Should cooperation agreements with members of the advisory board be uploaded with the application?

 -No, this is not a requirement at this stage of the application process.

Consent form (samtykkeerklæring)

Who needs to fill out a consent form?

 -A consent for must be uploaded for each co-PI, but not for other project participants.

Who is to be considered a ’co-applicant’ (medansøger) – is it A) PI and co-PIs or B) everyone in the steering group + advisory group or C) just the steering group?

 - Co-applicants (medansøgere) are researchers with a significant role in the project, i.e. co-PIs.

Need more information?

Please address any queries by email to senior adviser Gry Louise Minor Jensen at

Information meeting for prospective applicants

February 5 th, 2020 VILLUM FONDEN and VELUX FONDEN held an information meeting highlighting international experiences of collaboration between computer science and the humanities/social sciences and answered questions from prospective applicants. Get the programme for the information meeting here

Download presentations from the information meeting below:

For further information, please contact: