Two McGill researchers among winners of new international competition

By McGill Reporter staff

Two projects involving McGill researchers are among the eight winners of a new international competition, the Digging into Data Challenge, a partnership between four leading research agencies: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), of Canada; the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), of the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF), of the United States, and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), of the United Kingdom.

The Digging into Data Challenge promotes innovative humanities and social science research using large-scale data analysis. The competition winners were announced December 3.

“Our government supports science and technology to create jobs, improve the quality of life of Canadians and strengthen the economy,” said the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Canada’s Minister of State (Science and Technology). “Supporting international research partnerships helps our universities develop, attract and retain the world’s best research talent here in Canada.”

Overall, 22 successful candidates make up eight international research teams, composed of scientists and scholars using advanced computational techniques for humanities and social sciences research. Each team includes researchers from at least two of the participating countries. The teams will demonstrate how data mining and data analysis tools currently used in the sciences can improve scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. Total project funding by all four agencies amounts to $2,082,926.

“This exciting joint initiative with NEH, NSF and JISC enables Canadian researchers to further develop sophisticated text and image mining and data visualization technologies while forging international research partnerships,” said SSHRC President Dr. Chad Gaffield. “The results of these projects will build new knowledge that crosses disciplines from the vast digital resources now available to researchers.”

Ichiro Fujinaga, Associate Professor in the Music Technology Area at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT) in McGill’s Schulich School of Music, is part of a research team exploring Structural Analysis of Large Amounts of Music Information. The project will gather approximately 23,000 hours of digitized music representing a wide range of styles, regions and time periods. The goal is to develop tools to tag and analyze the underlying structures of this music, resulting in a body of world music that will provide music scholars with interactive access to previously unavailable analysis and insights. His research partners are Stephen Downie, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (NSF) and David De Roure, from the UK’s University of Southhampton (JISC).

Michael Wagner, Assistant Professor in McGill’s Department of Linguistics and Canada Research Chair in Speech and Language Processing, is part of the project Harvesting Speech Datasets for Linguistic Research on the Web, which will pull together audio and transcribed data from podcasts, news broadcasts, public and educational lectures and other sources to create a comprehensive repository of speech. Tools will then be developed to analyze this communication. Wagner’s partner on the project is Cornell University Linguistics professor Mats Rooth (NSF).