Research Agencies Launch International Competition: ‘Digging into Data Challenge’

A new, international competition called the Digging into Data Challenge has been announced by four leading research agencies: the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) from the United Kingdom, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) from the United States, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) from Canada.

The Digging into Data Challenge encourages humanities and social science research using large-scale data analysis, challenging scholars to develop international partnerships and explore vast digital resources, including electronic repositories of books, newspapers and photographs to identify new opportunities for scholarship.

Applicants will form international teams from at least two of the participating countries. Winning teams will receive grants from two or more of the funding agencies and, one year later, will be invited to present their work at a special conference. These teams, which may be composed of scholars and scientists, will be asked to demonstrate how data mining and data analysis tools currently used in the sciences can improve humanities and social science scholarship. The hope of this competition is that these projects will serve as exemplars to the field and encourage new, international partnerships among scholars, computer scientists, information scientists, librarians and others.

“It is exciting to us to be able to foster research with outcomes of equal excitement to the humanities and computer and information science and engineering disciplines,” said Haym Hirsh, director of NSF’s Division of Information and Intelligent Systems. “Through this program, twenty-first century technologies will enable new modes of scholarship that complement centuries-old ways of conducting research.”

“The Digging into Data Challenge brings together scientists and humanities scholars to take advantage of the digitization of millions of books, newspapers, photographs and countless other documents,” said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. “The NEH is delighted to work with JISC, NSF, and SSHRC to offer this competition and we look forward to many exciting discoveries from the analysis and study of this data.”

“The Digging into Data Challenge will allow for the large-scale analysis of huge collections of diverse cultural heritage resources,” said Alastair Dunning, JISC’s digitization program manager. “Such forms of analysis, unthinkable before the arrival of the Internet, will help give new insights to academic inquiry.”

“This exciting new joint initiative with NEH, JISC and NSF, will allow Canadian researchers to further develop sophisticated text and image mining and data visualization technologies while building international research partnerships,” said Chad Gaffield, SSHRC President. “SSHRC is confident that the results will create new knowledge about humanity from the vast digital resources now becoming available.”

In order to apply, interested applicants must first submit a letter of intent by March 15, 2009. Final applications will be due July 15, 2009. Further information about the competition and the application process can be found at

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