Has anyone used the open, visible portals of philanthropic foundation applications (Knight News Challenge, MacArthur DML, Hewlett OER, others) as a source of data about a certain issue?
For example, if you were trying to understand the "state" of community information efforts, would the applications to the Knight News Challenge be a useful source of data in terms of understanding what people out in the world think is important? Within those proposals exists ideas, some sense of the landscape around them, problem statements, and identified networks of interested parties. The pool of applications might be useful as either a snapshot in time or a view of an issue over time. Recognizing the limits (and changes) in the applicant pools as a sample, could these open pools of applications serve a dual purpose - funding proposals to the foundation (their stated purpose) and a data source on an issue (their big data purpose)?
This is in line with the point I made a few years in a talk at #PDF (video) about the potential of opening up all foundation grant proposals as a means of seeing what applicants think is important, a source of ideas, trends, useful data. The aggregate pool of applications to foundations (and other funding sources) would finally provide some "big data" on the ideas people have, programs that are out there, practices in place for making communities better.
Getting access to all proposals is a long term proposition (many might call it a pipe dream). Since some foundations are now holding these open challenges, do those pools of applications serve any larger purpose? Do you know anyone who has looked at them as such?
Happy Pesach, Easter, weekend.