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Digging into Data

What is the Digging into Data Challenge?

The Digging into Data Challenge aims to address how "big data" changes the research landscape for the humanities and social sciences. Now that we have massive databases of materials available for research in the humanities and the social sciences--ranging from digitized books, newspapers, and music to information generated by Internet-based activities and mobile communications, administrative data from public agencies, and customer databases from private sector organizations-—what new, computationally-based research methods might we apply? As the world becomes increasingly digital, new techniques will be needed to search, analyze, and understand these materials. Digging into Data challenges the research community to help create the new research infrastructure for 21st-century scholarship.

Digging into Data is a grant program sponsored by several leading research funders from around the world (see each round below). Teams of researchers from at least three different participating countries send in grant applications. These applications are reviewed by an international peer review panel.

For Round One (2009)

The Digging into Data Challenge was sponsored by four research funders (NEHNSFSSHRCJisc) representing the US, Canada, and UK. Eventually, 8 international projects emerged as winners. Many of these projects were written up in publications such as the New York Times and were the subject of a major research report published by CLIR. All 8 projects presented their work at a conference in Washington, D.C., in June of 2011.

For Round Two (2011)

Four additional funders joined the DiD ranks (IMLSAHRCESRCNWO) and the Netherlands joined as a fourth country. At the end of Round Two, 14 projects won awards, chosen by our international peer reviewers. These 14 presented their work at a conference held in Montréal, Canada, on October 12, 2013.

For Round Three (2013)

Another two funders joined DiD (CFI and NSERC), bringing us to a total of ten. At the end of Round Three, 14 projects won awards.

For Round Four (2016)

For the 2016 competition, Digging into Data was presented under the auspices of the Trans-Atlantic Platform (T-AP), a consortium of sixteen international funders of social sciences and humanities research from Europe, South America, and North America. New funders from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, and Portugal joined. At the end of Round Four, 14 projects won awards.

List of Data Repositories

Digital libraries, archives, and museums are an important part of Digging into Data. These are the organizations that create, store, curate, and preserve the digital data studied by researchers. We maintain a list of such data repositories that make their data available to the Digging research teams. See the full list.


The Digging into Data Challenge is administered by the Trans-Atlantic Platform, a consortium of sixteen international funders of social sciences and humanities research from Europe, South America, and North America. The full RFP is available at the applications materials webpage.  The challenge can be followed on Twitter: @DiggingIntoData.

The IMLS contact for Digging into Data is Trevor Owens, who can be reached at  If you have a funder-specific questions, please see the specific contact information in the main RFP or Digging into Data.

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Post date: January 06, 2012