Granting councils award funding to teams from both sides of the Atlantic to advance digital research

Through the Digging into Data Challenge, international research projects will focus on using "big data" to address common challenges and emerging priorities in the social sciences and humanities.

March 31, 2017, Ottawa, Ontario—Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) today announced that they have awarded $897,000 to six winning teams who competed in the Digging into Data Challenge organized by the Trans-Atlantic Platform (T-AP). This challenge fosters interdisciplinary collaboration, and promotes new approaches to research in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.

The funding provided by SSHRC and NSERC will go toward international research projects focused on such topics as studying the standard of living across countries by analyzing online price data, and researching speech datasets to understand how the English language has changed over time.

Each of the winning teams comprises researchers from multiple scholarly and scientific disciplines working collaboratively to demonstrate how cutting-edge big data techniques can be used to investigate a wide range of research questions across the social sciences and humanities.

T-AP is a collaboration between key humanities and social sciences funders and facilitators from South America, North America and Europe. T-AP brings together funders, research organizations and researchers to engage in transnational dialogue and collaboration.


“Harnessing the world’s vast amounts of data is both a challenge and opportunity for humankind. This international competition brings together social sciences and humanities researchers from three continents to work together and foster new approaches to research in this exciting and rapidly evolving field.”

—Dr. Ted Hewitt, President of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and co-chair of the T-AP Steering Committee

"Extracting groundbreaking insights from the ever-growing mountains of data being collected worldwide represents a tremendous opportunity for researchers across the natural, health and social sciences. I am pleased to see three NSERC-funded computer scientists working as part of international teams of interdisciplinary experts who are expanding the frontiers of social sciences and humanities research."

—Dr. B. Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Quick Facts

  • Since its inception in 2009, the Digging into Data Challenge program has helped spark exciting new research avenues for the social sciences and humanities, using computational techniques.
  • These international projects consist of teams from at least three member countries, and must include partners from both sides of the Atlantic.
  • Projects must address a research question in humanities and/or social sciences disciplines by using large-scale, digital data analysis techniques, and show how these techniques can lead to new insights.
  • Participating nations include: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. 
  • The results of these research projects will be showcased at a special conference sponsored by the participating agencies at the end of the funding period (24-36 months).

Challenge Awardees

Online Prices for Computing Standards of Living Across Countries

A collaboration among an international group of economists using online prices, available from the Billion Prices Project at MIT, to study standards of living across countries.

Canada (SSHRC) Walter Erwin Diewert, The University of British Columbia
The Netherlands (NWO) Robert Inklaar, University of Groningen
United States (NSF) Robert Feenstra, University of California

Analyzing Child Language Experiences Around the World

An international collaboration among linguists and speech experts to study child language development across nations and cultures to gain a better understanding of how an infant’s environment affects subsequent language ability.

Canada (SSHRC, NSERC) Melanie Soderstrom, University of Manitoba
Argentina (MINCyT) Celia Rosemberg, CONICET
Finland (AKA) Okko Räsänen, Aalto University
France (ANR) Emmanuel Dupoux, École Normale Supérieure
United Kingdom (ESRC/AHRC) Björn Schuller, Imperial College London
United States (NEH) Elika Bergelson, Duke University

Theoretical and Empirical Modeling of Identity and Sentiments in Collaborative Groups

An interdisciplinary research project on the motivations of self-organized collaborations and determinates of their success, through a large-scale study of the scholarly networks and open source software development projects housed on the GitHub repository. The project team includes scholars from sociology, cognitive science, computer science and engineering.

Canada (SSHRC, NSERC) Jesse Hoey, University of Waterloo
Germany (DFG) Tobias Schroeder, Potsdam University of Applied Sciences
United States (NSF) Kimberly B. Rogers, Dartmouth College

SPeech Across Dialects of English (SPADE): large-scale digital analysis of a spoken language across space and time

A research collaboration to develop and apply user-friendly software for large-scale speech analysis of 43 existing public and private speech datasets and to understand how English speech has changed over time and space. These diverse datasets are comprised of both Old World (British Isles) and New World (North American) English across an effective time span of over 100 years. 

Canada (SSHRC/NSERC) Morgan Sonderegger, McGill University
United Kingdom (AHRC/ESRC) Jane Stuart-Smith, University of Glasgow
United States (NSF) Jeffrey Mielke, North Carolina State University

Digging into the Knowledge Graph

An international collaboration of library and information scientists studying how Linked Open Data, a technique for publishing online data, can improve storage methods for humanities and social science data. Projects in musicology and economics will serve as use cases for this research.

Canada (SSHRC) Rick Szostak, University of Alberta
The Netherlands (NWO) Andrea Scharnhorst, Data Archiving and Networked Services
United States (IMLS) Richard Smiraglia, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Machine Translation and Automated Analysis of Cuneiform Languages

A collaboration among ancient studies scholars, linguists, and computer scientists to develop computational techniques for translating ancient administrative records stored on cuneiform tablets.

Canada (SSHRC) Heather D. Baker, University of Toronto
Germany (DFG) Christian Chiarcos, University of Frankfurt
United States (NEH) Robert K. Englund, University of California

Associated links


Julia Gualtieri
Media Relations
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council