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Last modified: Monday, January 9, 2012

International Digging Into Data Challenge lands IU scholars on two winning teams

IU leads 67 teams in competition with five researchers funded to explore 'big data'

Jan. 9, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University shined the brightest in an international competition to promote innovative humanities and social science research using large-scale data analysis, landing a leading number of five scholars on two of 14 winning projects. In all, 67 international teams competed in the Digging Into Data Challenge, and IU was the only university in the U.S. with researchers on two winning teams.

With $4.8 million in sponsorships from eight international research funders based in Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States -- where funding came from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services -- the 14 grant-winning projects will investigate how data processing, and analysis and transmission techniques, can be applied to "big data" to change the nature of humanities and social sciences research.

One of the winning projects involving IU investigators was "Cascades, Islands, or Streams? Time, Topic, and Scholarly Activities in Humanities and Social Science Research," an effort to analyze topic lifecycles not only in scholarly literature but also in social networks, blogs and other materials, as part of an effort to identify datasets that should no longer be marginalized and instead be built into measurements of scholarship. The other winner was "Digging by Debating," a project to develop and implement a multi-scale workbench, called "InterDebates," with the goal of digging into data provided by hundreds of thousands, eventually millions, of digitized books, bibliographic databases of journal articles and comprehensive reference works written by experts.

Principal investigators for "Digging by Debating" include IU's Colin Allen, Provost Professor of Cognitive Science and History and Philosophy of Science in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, and Katy Börner, Victor H. Yngve Professor of Information Science at the School of Library and Information Science. Allen is also director of IU's Cognitive Science Program. They will be joined by researchers at the University of East London, University of Dundee and University of London, all in the U.K.

Principal investigators from IU on the "Cascades, Islands, or Streams?" project include SLIS assistant professors Cassidy R. Sugimoto, Ying Ding and Staša Milojević. They will work with additional principal investigators from University of Wolverhampton, U.K., and the Université de Montréal.

SLIS Dean Debora Shaw recognized the successful efforts by IU faculty in an academic competition designed to help reduce barriers to international research by making collaboration among the scholars as seamless as possible. Only two other universities -- University of Toronto and University of Manchester (U.K.) -- had scholars on two winning projects, and only IU, with five principal investigators, had more than two scholars funded in the competition.

"Cassidy Sugimoto, Ying Ding and Staša Milojević have assembled a team with exceptional credentials to investigate the ebb and flow of ideas from different scholarly domains. They include popular social media as well as the traditional scholarly channels of communication and adopt an international perspective. This broad approach will provide a more robust understanding of the rapid changes that affect scholarship today.

"Colin Allen and Katy Börner, in collaboration with colleagues in the U.K., will demonstrate how large-scale data repositories with millions of books can change the nature of research for the humanities and social sciences. Their 'Digging by Debating' project combines the power of 'scientometrics' with the interpretative strategies of the humanities to tackle the particularly challenging issue of understanding the boundary between science and philosophy. Their work encourages us to think big about how cultural heritage can inform contemporary society."

The groups of IU researchers working on the "Digging by Debating" and "Cascades, Islands, or Streams?" projects will each receive about $150,000 in funding.

Other funded projects included using information retrieval techniques to investigate changes in Western music; using high-resolution medical imaging scanning to study Egyptian mummies; using data-mining technology to shed light on the impact of economic opportunity and spatial mobility on social structure; and using natural language processing to analyze large bodies of textual materials to study human rights abuses.

Sponsoring funders for the Digging Into Data Challenge from outside the U.S. were the Arts & Humanities Research Council, United Kingdom; the Economic & Social Research Council, United Kingdom; the Joint Information Systems Committee, United Kingdom; the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research; and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada.

For more information, please contact Steve Chaplin, IU Communications, at 812-856-1896 or Tweeting Indiana University Science: @IndianaScience