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How Sloan’s Data Science Program is Trying to Make Sense of it All  

Data science is showing potential to unpack some of the toughest problems in several fields of research. Cheaper and stronger sensors, storage, and computing means we have new power to make sense of all the information we're collecting, almost constantly. Few funders are as focused on making it happen as the Alfred A. Sloan Foundation. 

Whether it’s in journalism, corporate marketing strategy, or the job market, data science seems to be seeping into everything. But in the world of research, there are some truly transformative opportunities in anything from humanities to marine biology. That’s why, as we’ve discussed here a lot lately, funders are jumping at such opportunities.

But as researchers are hoarding and crunching increasing amounts of information, there’s also an increasing demand for trained scholars, best practices, and widely accessible tools. Sloan is one of a handful of funders out there (Moore being the other big one) that is looking to bolster the field of studying data iself, with its Data and Computational Research subprogram.  

Just as data science works best when involving multiple researchers and sets of information, Sloan is especially interested in projects that allow sharing of information and programs that can help replicate research methods. They also fund programs that will help develop a new class of professionals who can serve as the emerging experts in the field.

The data subprogram is part of the foundation’s Digital Information Technology program, which started in 2011 with $4 million in grants and more than doubled giving in the following year. Overall, Sloan is one of the largest science funders in the country, giving about $77 million annually.

The signature grant for this initiative has been a $37.8 million funding commitment shared by both Sloan and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, spreading support across the University of Washington, the University of California at Berkeley, and New York University. 

But they’ve made several other interesting grants:

  • Council on Library and Information Resources based in D.C. has received multiple grants: $672,000 in 2012 and $1.3 million in 2013 in support of “data curation postdoctoral fellows” to help develop leaders in the field based at academic libraries. 
  • Fund for the City of New York received $731,000 for the DataKind project, which aims to connect data scientists and programs with mission-based nonprofits. 
  • Mozilla Foundation, the open source software nonprofit behind Firefox, has receive more than $700,000 so far to improve the quality of software being used by scientists to aid research. 

Learn more about Sloan and its data program below: 

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Grants for Science Research

IP profile of Program Director Joshua Greenberg

Data and Computational Research

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