The Data Science Initiative Competitive Research Fund

Deadline: Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Award Amount: The Fund will support two awards of up to $100,000 each, and two to four smaller awards of up to $50,000 each. A total of $300,000 of funding is available.

Eligible Applicants: Individuals who hold a faculty appointment at a Harvard school and who have principal investigator rights at that school (see Eligibility section, below).

Overview of the Data Science Initiative Competitive Research Fund

The goal of the Data Science Initiative Competitive Research Fund is to support research that advances data science at Harvard in new ways. In 2018, funds will be used to support planning grants within and across each of five themes:

  1. Data-Driven Scientific Discovery (includes discovery of new materials, drug and gene discovery, environment, astronomy, neuroscience)
  2. Markets and Networks (includes networks and influence, innovation and crowds, digital economy, jobs, fairness, privacy, accountability, crowdsourcing)
  3. Personalized Health (includes precision medicine, precision public health, medical informatics, diagnostics, personal devices)
  4. Evidence-Based Policy (includes equality of opportunity, healthcare economics, democracy and governance, climate change -- resilience and mitigation)
  5. Advanced Methodologies (includes causal inference, deep learning, visualization, Monte Carlo methods, experimental design, interpretability, non-parametric Bayesian, high-dimensional inference, robust machine learning, control of false discovery, human-in-the-loop, reinforcement learning, data systems, reproducibility, data sharing)

This call invites innovative ideas for projects that will be foundational to longer-term research programs in any of the five themes listed above. Projects that span two or more themes are also encouraged.

  1. Planning Grants

The Data Science Initiative is planning future activity in five broad thematic areas. These themes will serve as foci around which to coalesce targeted inquiry. Through the 2018 Competitive Research Fund, the DSI seeks to support projects that will result in action plans for future activity in the five thematic areas. Planning grants should propose a project that could inform an ambitious three to five-year research agenda with significant impact, through:

  • Establishing a cross-department research team;
  • Establishing the promise of early-stage research;
  • Making progress on a data science bottleneck;
  • Planning towards novel methods, innovations, or solutions to Data Science challenges


This program is open to individuals who hold a faculty appointment at a Harvard school and who have principal investigator rights at that school. (Please note: Harvard Medical School faculty must hold a faculty appointment with PI rights in one of HMS’s preclinical departments).

Individual faculty may only submit one application in this funding cycle.

Successful applicants will be expected to give a short presentation of the funded project at a symposium during or at the end of the grant period, and to share any code that is developed through a public GitHub repository.

Application Requirements

Applications must be submitted online here by 5:00 p.m. by March 6, 2018. Proposals will be read and evaluated by faculty with interdisciplinary expertise in Data Science, so please ensure that your proposal makes sense to someone outside of your discipline.

Information requested in the online application includes the following:

  1. Contact information;
  2. Project description that is accessible to non-specialists (limit 3 pages). The project description should include:
    1. The question or problem, and why it is important.
    2. The approach to be taken.
    3. The potential impact of the proposed work.
  3. Abridged CV or biosketch (limit two pages);
  4. List of all current or pending external sources of grant support, and information on any external funding you have applied for or intend to apply for to support the project.
  5. Budget and budget justification (limit one page). Budgets should provide enough information to convey the alignment of costs with the project. Faculty are encouraged to work with their grant administrators when including personnel and fringe benefits. We expect to make funding available in late Spring, 2018.
  6. Description of the availability of data and resources, as appropriate.

Examples of eligible expenses include:

  • Personnel, such as postdocs, research staff, graduate students, undergraduate students
  • Travel (domestic and international)
  • Acquisition of datasets

The following expenses are NOT eligible for funding:

  • Overhead
  • Faculty salary
  • Graduate student tuition
  • Educational use
  • Subcontracts outside Harvard
  • Equipment


If you have questions about the DSI Competitive Research Fund, please email