NEH Announces “Digging Into Data” Challenge Grant Awardees

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and seven global partners recently awarded approximately $4.8 million to international research teams investigating how computational techniques may be applied to “big data” —the massive multi-source datasets made possible by modern technology.

Additional information about the competition can be found at

Fourteen teams representing Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States were named the winners of the second Digging Into Data Challenge, a competition to promote innovative humanities and social science research using large-scale data analysis. Each team represents collaborations among scholars, scientists, and librarians from leading universities worldwide.

Arising out of the question “what would you do with a million books?” the Digging Into Data Challenge grant competition was created in 2009 by NEH and three other international research agencies. This year, an expanded group of funders will support fourteen projects that apply “cyberscholarship” to a wide variety of topics, such as: tracking the spread and severity of the flu pandemic of 1918 as reported in the newspapers of the day; using medical imaging scanning on mummies to see if ancient Egyptians died of hardening of the arteries; tracing the evolution of Western musical style over 600 years through analysis of a vast repository of music from 1300-1900; and mining 19th and 20th century census data to determine how migration affected individuals’ economic opportunity and social mobility in Europe and North America.

The sponsoring research funders include the Arts & Humanities Research Council (United Kingdom), the Economic & Social Research Council (United Kingdom), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (United States), the Joint Information Systems Committee (United Kingdom), the National Endowment for the Humanities (United States), the National Science Foundation (United States), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (Netherlands), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Canada).

Of the approximately $4.8 million U.S. dollars provided by these eight agencies, the National Endowment for the Humanities’ contribution of $633,217 supports American researchers from five of the fourteen teams.
Detailed descriptions of the fourteen winning projects can be found below.