Joshua Greenberg, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

TITLE: Program Director

FUNDING AREAS: Data and computational research and tech tools for academia

CONTACT:, 212-649-1633

IP TAKE: Greenberg has a long history in digital communication and technology, first in academia and then as director of digital strategy for the New York Public Library system. The majority of his grants go to projects that hug the line between technology and scholarship.

PROFILE: Prior to joining the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Joshua Greenberg had a long career has a researcher studying data technology—his dissertation, From Betamax to Blockbuster, was published by the MIT Press—and he continues to be actively involved in the humanities and data science communities. To start with the broad scope of Greenberg's educational and work history, here's his bio on the foundation's website:

Dr. Greenberg received his Bachelor of Arts in History of Science, Medicine and Technology from the Johns Hopkins University, and both Masters and Doctoral degrees from Cornell University's Department of Science & Technology Studies. His dissertation work on the early history of the consumer videocassette recorder and the invention of the video rental industry was published as "From Betamax to Blockbuster" by the MIT Press (2008). The research was notable for the extensive use of online media to collect oral histories of early video store owners, employees and customers.

After completing his graduate work, Dr. Greenberg worked as Associate Director for Research Projects at George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, as well as Research Assistant Professor in the University’s Department of History and Art History. At CHNM, he co-founded the Zotero project, developed and promoted ways of using the Internet to further historical research, and helped build several systems that eventually evolved into the content management platform Omeka.

Immediately prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Greenberg was the New York Public Library's first Director of Digital Strategy and Scholarship, where he developed and led a digital strategy centered on building online visitors and deepening engagement through access to collections both on Library websites and third-party platforms and increased exposure to staff expertise via blogs and other social media.

He is an active member of the broader digital library and digital humanities communities, serving on a number of advisory boards and program committees, and maintains active research and teaching interests in the history and sociology of information technology, the dynamics of public engagement with expert knowledge, and the methodological implications of new digital technologies for research.

He has broad experience and understanding of the content and research needs of traditional scholarly communities as well as digitally-networked services and tools to support myriad forms of public engagement and participation.

Since taking over his role in 2010, Greenberg has helped to shape Sloan's Digital Information Technology program into what it is today. As program director, Greenberg oversees two programs, Data and Computational Research and Scholarly Communication. Both could be broadly described as digitizing academia, with one focusing on research and the other focusing on the dissemination of research.

For instance, the Data and Computational Research program provides grants for developing tools and defining how institutions can embrace these new technologies. It's an area that Greenberg is very active in, and he's spoken often on the role of data- and computation-driven research in the future of academia.

"There is a growing need in every discipline for well-trained professionals with one foot in research and one foot in data curation," Greenberg said recently, following the announcement of a grant to the Council on Library and Information Resources to establish data curation fellowships.

On the other side is Scholarly Communication, where the foundation supports large-scale publishing tools like the PLoS ONE, as well as emerging options like blogs and personal websites. This is one of the main areas that Sloan had in place before Greenberg joined the foundation, but it has continued to evolve under his guidance. For instance, grants for the development of new platforms have increased.

As a funder, Greenberg could be described as something of a risk taker. In an interview with GiveWell, he mentioned how the foundation supports early-stage projects that have the potential for scale. But that shouldn't give the wrong impression. He doesn't just write checks and see what happens. Instead, he takes a somewhat hands-on approach to ensure grantees are headed in the right direction, and he provides continued support to early-stage grantees.

For instance, ImpactStory, an open-source tool that helps researchers measure the impact of their work, was originally supported with a $125,000 grant in 2012 from the foundation, when it was still an evening-and-weekends project. A year later, ImpactStory received an additional $500,000 grant to continue its work.