CAMPAIGN PRIORITY

For starters, we must
counter Truth Decay.

Truth Decay is the term we use for the diminishing role of facts and analysis in public life. Truth Decay erodes civil discourse. In government, that leads to dysfunction and more and more often, gridlock, which further erodes public trust in institutions and increases the risk of civic disengagement from the processes that make a democracy work.

That’s why understanding how Truth Decay works and then identifying ways to counter it are so important. The survival of communities, institutions, and entire societies depends on accomplishing this.

Key themes for this priority

Building a more informed society

Sources of information that meet high standards of accuracy and freedom from bias are the media cornerstones of a healthy society. Public commitment to seeking—and trusting—high-quality information is essential too. Many indicators suggest that individuals and communities are becoming less informed, not more so.

Reinvigorating civic education and democracy

Shifts in educational focus and funding priorities over recent decades may be leaving young people unprepared to participate in democratic systems. We need civic education and democracy to work together to create a more informed, responsible, and engaged citizenry.

Reinforcing responsible and accountable media

In an era when economic pressures appear to incentivize speed, opinion, and sensationalism, how should the media adapt? Serious-minded media organizations face pressure and criticism from every direction, including from within.

Countering disinformation

Advances in technology have supercharged the spread of disinformation, and actors promoting false narratives are out-innovating their opponents. Countering disinformation will require a coordinated, interdisciplinary effort that spans the policy, technology, and communications sectors and overcomes hurdles to cooperation.

Representative funding opportunities

The RAND Center for an Informed Society

Benefit:

Harnessing the innovation of a changing information ecosystem to empower individuals and communities

The mission of the center will focus on three complementary efforts. First, it will work to foster an information ecosystem that is diverse, accessible, transparent, and resilient. Second, it will stimulate an engaged citizenry by empowering people with media literacy skills and resources. Third, the center will foster the governance, policies, and institutions to support and safeguard the information ecosystem as it continues to evolve.

Desired impact:

Promoting a healthy, dynamic information ecosystem and a well-informed, fully participatory society with resilience to manipulation and disinformation

The RAND Center for Civic Engagement

Benefit:

Reinventing models of citizenship for the 2020s and beyond

A resilient democracy requires the active engagement of its citizens. Increasingly, however, rising inequity, economic turbulence, and environmental stress are driving disaffection. That said, a changing demographic and technological landscape is creating new opportunities to expand civic participation to new communities and through new channels. RAND seeks to work with local partners to realize these opportunities and bridge partisan divides. This effort will integrate the graduate school’s Tech and Narrative Lab to develop and experiment with new ways to use technology to strengthen civic education and democracy.

Desired impact:

Expanded and diversified engagement that strengthens and renews the foundation of our democracy

The RAND Center for Cognitive Security and Well-being

Benefit:

Establishing new relationships among individuals, communities, and tech platforms

Disinformation thrives on a susceptibility to false narratives. New technologies for creating and sharing information generate additional challenges. In response, the center will leverage tech-sector innovations to counter disinformation, protect cognitive security, and advance civic well-being. The center will also establish technology partnerships to create new models for protecting individuals and communities from disinformation and related threats. In addition, the center will serve as a convener for addressing the complex issues shaping cognitive security into the future.

Desired impact:

Successfully counter threats to cognitive security; enhance individual and community well-being

Chairs and Fellows for Media, Civics and Democracy

Benefit:

Bringing new talent to bear on core issues of Truth Decay

In our commitment to investing in people and ideas, RAND will create new positions to enable its researchers to spend focused time delving into media and civics and their relationships to democracy. Possible topics include the development of modern civics education, tools and approaches for increasing civic knowledge and engagement, exploring sustainable economic models for investigative journalism, and experimenting with new formats and innovations for the future of news.

Desired impact:

Successful application of new ideas, innovations, and approaches to support the expansion of civic engagement, the revitalization of the news media landscape, and robust democracies