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Developing data tools for the future

Ten international funders have launched the third round of the international Digging into Data Challenge to help humanities and social science researchers use advanced data tools.

The challenge funds collaborations between researchers in the UK, US, Canada and the Netherlands. “The most important thing is working together towards either developing new ways to analyse data, or employing existing methods in innovative ways on new datasets,” says Samantha McGregor, senior policy manager at the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.

The ESRC is one of three UK contributors to the challenge—the others are the Arts and Humanities Research Council and JISC.

UK teams can apply for between £15,000 and £100,000, with a higher limit of £150,000 for collaborations involving more than one UK institution. The deadline for applications is 15 May.

As well as developing research techniques for large datasets, McGregor says the challenge aims to foster international and interdisciplinary collaboration with a strong open-access message.

“The benefit of collaborating internationally is that we can find new ways, both as research funders and as researchers, of moving forward [with] common approaches to analysing these data, which in turn makes data analysis in the future much easier.”

Petr Knoth, research associate at the Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute, was a successful applicant in 2011’s challenge. Working with the European Library Office in the Netherlands, Knoth’s team are looking at searching, browsing, and data-mining methods for open-access research. “The Digging into Data Challenge is one of the best types of funding we have ever received,” he says.

Knoth is enthusiastic about the two-year time span of his project. He says he appreciates the fact that “the funder is cooperating with you, not forcing you to have an extremely large consortium.”