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 CLIR Report Minimize
One Culture: Computationally Intensive Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences
A Report on the Experiences of First Respondents to the Digging Into Data Challenge
June 12, 2012. Today, at the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries in Washington, DC, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) released One Culture: Computationally Intensive Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This report culminates two years of work by CLIR staff involving extensive interviews and site visits with scholars engaged in international research collaborations involving computational analysis of large data corpora. These scholars were the first recipients of grants through the Digging into Data program, led by the NEH, who partnered with JISC in the UK, SSHRC in Canada, and the NSF to fund the first eight initiatives. The report introduces the eight projects and discusses the importance of these cases as models for the future of research in the academy.
To read the full report, along with supplementary case studies of each project, please visit the CLIR website.


 Awardees of Round 1 (2009) Digging into Data Challenge Minimize

Congratulations to the 2009 Digging into Data Challenge Awardees and a big "thank you" to all the teams that competed and the many libraries and archives that made their collections available to the researchers.

Important note: Each DiD project is composed of an international team of scholars and scientists. Each team had to select one institution to be the awardee of record for each granting agency. However, many other institutions played critical roles in each project.  Below, we will list both the awardees of record as well as other key team members.


Digging into Image Data to Answer Authorship Related Questions

Awardees: Dean Rehberger, Michigan State University, NEH; Peter Bajcsy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, NSF; Peter Ainsworth, University of Sheffield, JISC.

Digging into the Enlightenment: Mapping the Republic of Letters

Awardees: Dan Edelstein, Stanford University, NEH; Chris Weaver, University of Oklahoma, NSF; Robert McNamee, University of Oxford, JISC. more-->


Mining a Year of Speech

Awardees: Mark Liberman, University of Pennsylvania, NSF; John Coleman, University of Oxford, JISC.
Additional Key Participants
:  The British Library. more-->


Structural Analysis of Large Amounts of Musical Information

Awardees:  Stephen Downie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, NSF; David De Roure, University of Southhampton, JISC; Ichiro Fujinaga, McGill University, SSHRC. more-->

Harvesting Speech Datasets for Linguistic Research on the Web

Awardees: Mats Rooth, Cornell University, NSF; Michael Wagner, McGill University, SSHRC.
Description: This project will harvest audio and transcribed data  more-->



Using Zotero and TAPOR on the Old Bailey Proceedings: Data Mining with Criminal Intent

: Dan Cohen, George Mason University, NEH; Tim Hitchcock, University of Hertfordshire, JISC; Geoffrey Rockwell, University of Alberta, SSHRC. more-->

Towards Dynamic Variorum Editions

Awardees: Gregory Crane, Tufts University, NEH; John Darlington, Imperial College, London, JISC; Bruce Robertson, Mount Allison University, SSHRC. more-->


Railroads and the making of Modern America--Tools for Spatio-Temporal Correlation, Analysis and Visualization 

Awardees: William Thomas, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NEH; Richard Healey, University of Portsmouth, JISC
Additional Key Participants
: The University of Victoria, more-->


 Announcement of 2009 Competition Minimize

The Digging into Data Challenge is an international grant competition sponsored by four leading research agencies, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) from the United Kingdom, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) from the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF) from the United States, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) from Canada. 

What is the "challenge" we speak of?  The idea behind the Digging into Data Challenge is to answer the question "what do you do with a million books?"  Or a million pages of newspaper? Or a million photographs of artwork?  That is, how does the notion of scale affect humanities and social science research? Now that scholars have access to huge repositories of digitized data -- far more than they could read in a lifetime -- what does that mean for research?  

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 show off their work at a special conference. Our hope is that these projects will serve as exemplars to the field.


The advent of what has been called “data-driven inquiry” or “cyberscholarship” has changed the nature of inquiry across many disciplines, including the sciences and humanities, revealing new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration on problems of common interest.  The creation of vast quantities of Internet accessible digital data and the development of techniques for large-scale data analysis and visualization have led to remarkable new discoveries in genetics, astronomy, and other fields, and—importantly—connections between academic disciplinary areas.  New techniques of large-scale data analysis allow researchers to discover relationships, detect discrepancies, and perform computations on data sets that are so large that they can be processed only using computing resources and computational methods developed and made economically affordable within the past few years.  With books, newspapers, journals, films, artworks, and sound recordings being digitized on a massive scale, it is possible to apply data analysis techniques to large collections of diverse cultural heritage resources as well as scientific data.  How might these techniques help scholars use these materials to ask new questions about and gain new insights into our world?  To encourage innovative approaches to this question, four international research organizations are organizing a joint grant competition to focus the attention of the social science and humanities research communities on large-scale data analysis and its potential application to a wide range of scholarly resources. 

The goals of the initiative are

  • to promote the development and deployment of innovative research techniques in large-scale data analysis;
  • to foster interdisciplinary collaboration among scholars in the humanities, social sciences, computer sciences, information sciences, and other fields, around questions of text and data analysis;
  • to promote international collaboration; and
  • to work with data repositories that hold large digital collections to ensure efficient access to these materials for research.


If you are interested in taking up this challenge, please read the RFP and addenda available on this page. 

 Round 1 (2009) Sponsors Minimize

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 Press Minimize

Press Releases About the Launch off Digging into Data Challenge (January 2009)


Press Releases about Awardees (December 2009)


Speech by NEH Chairman Jim Leach at DiD awards ceremony.

Articles about the Winning Projects, December 4, 2009, "'Digging into Data Challenge' grant awarded"

The Tufts Daily, December 4, 2009, "Classics department researchers earn grant"

The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 4, 2009, "A 'New Digital Class' Digs Into Data"

Inside HPC, December 7, 2009, "What would you do with one million books?"

HPCWire, December 11, 2009, "Grant Supports Computational Analysis Of Manuscripts, Maps and Quilts"

The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 13, 2009 "How to Prepare Your College for an Uncertain Digital Future"

The Mason Gazette, December 15, 2009, "Digging through the History of Crime Wins Center a Federal Grant"

McGill Reporter, December 17, 2009, "Two McGill researchers among winners of new international competition"

The New York Times, November 16, 2010, "Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches"

 Related Reading Minimize

Below are some related readings. Please feel free to send us further suggestions.

Anderson, Chris. "The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete." Wired 16.07 (2008)

Arms, William and Ronald Larsen (editors). "The Future of Scholarly  Communication: Building the Infrastructure for Cyberscholarship". NSF/ JISC workshop, Phoenix, Arizona, April 17 to 19, 2007.

Clement, Tanya, Sara Steger, John Unsworth, and Kirsten Uszkalo. "How Not to Read a Million Books?" Presentation at Harvard University (2008)

Cohen, Daniel. "From Babel to Knowledge: Data Mining Large Digital Collections." D-Lib Magazine 12.3 (2006)

Cohen KB, Hunter L. "Getting Started in Text Mining." PLoS Computational Biology 4(1): e20 doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.0040020

Crane, Greg. "What Do You Do with a Million Books?" D-Lib Magazine 12.3 (2006).

Friedlander, Amy (editor). "Promoting Digital Scholarship: Formulating Research Challenges in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Computation." Council on Library and Information Resources (2008).

Halevy, Alon, Peter Norvig, and Fernando Pereira. "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data." IEEE Intelligent Systems, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 8-12, Mar./Apr. 2009, doi:10.1109/MIS.2009.36

Venter, Craig. "Bigger Faster Better." Seed, November 20 (2008).

 Contact Minimize

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The Digging into Data Challenge is being administered by the Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities. To contact ODH with any kinds of questions, please send us an e-mail.  If you have funder-specific questions, please see the specific contact information found in each RFP Addendum.

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