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Leading Research Agencies Announce New International Competition: "The Digging into Data Challenge"


International effort will encourage partnerships between humanities scholars, computer and information scientists, librarians and others

Today, a new, international competition called the Digging into Data Challenge was 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


Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities. NEH grants enrich classroom learning, create and preserve knowledge, and bring ideas to life through public television, radio, new technologies, museum exhibitions, and programs in libraries and other community places. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available on the Internet at

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) is a joint committee of the U.K. further and higher education funding bodies and is responsible for supporting the innovative use of information and communication technology (ICT) to support learning, teaching, and research. It is best known for providing a U.K. national infrastructure network, a range of support, content, and advisory services, and a portfolio of high-quality resources. Information about JISC, its services and programs can be found at

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) is an independent federal government agency that funds university-based research and graduate training through national peer-review competitions. SSHRC also partners with public and private sector organizations to focus research and aid the development of better policies and practices in key areas of Canada’s social, cultural and economic life. More information about SSHRC is available on the Internet at

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $6.06 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.


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