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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) SDSS Seed Grant Program

Program Overview

What is the School of Data Science and Society (SDSS) Seed Grant Program?

The SDSS Seed Grant Program is a funding initiative aimed at promoting interdisciplinary research and innovation in the field of data science. It provides non-renewable, 12-month seed grants to support research projects that contribute to the development of data science and its applications.

What are the primary goals of the SDSS Seed Grant Program?

The program aims to foster collaborative research, drive innovation in data science techniques, address real-world problems through data science, and explore ethical, legal, and social issues related to data science.

How will the Seed Grants benefit recipients?

The Seed Grants are intended to provide resources to kickstart research projects. The goal is to facilitate research that has a clear path to securing external funding or commercialization.

Who manages the SDSS Seed Grant Program?

The SDSS Office of Research Strategy administers the program on behalf of the School of Data Science and Society.

Is there a preference for “big data” projects or is the substantive contribution of the project more important?
Both are equally attractive. Make sure that proposed projects align with the broad 3 themes: 1) Research in Data Science (2) Data Science for Interdisciplinary Research or (3) Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues (ELSI) of Data Science.

Is there any preference between theoretical projects vs. applied projects?
Both are equally attractive.



Who is eligible to apply for the SDSS Seed Grants?

Team leads, including Principal Investigators (PI) and co-PIs, must be eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator according to the UNC Office of Sponsored Programs policy. If the policy would require a PI waiver for the individual to serve as PI, this waiver may be required at the full proposal stage. Applicants are encouraged to collaborate with individuals outside their home unit to pursue interdisciplinary projects. Post-docs and graduate students may be named on proposals but may not be listed as investigators or lead the project.

Is there a minimum number of PIs that must be on the proposal?

The minimum number of PIs is one. Teams are highly encouraged to partner with individuals outside their home unit to pursue interdisciplinary research. Without putting undue constraint on team structures, we anticipate that most teams will either have two to three co-PIs who share responsibility for an interdisciplinary project or 1 PI and leading several co-Investigators who contribute specific expertise. If there are multiple PIs, we anticipate that at least two PIs will be within UNC-Chapel Hill.

Do you prefer junior or senior standing PIs?
No preference.

Can someone with an EHRA-NF appointment as a researcher in a center or institute apply for these grants?
Yes (see eligibility).

Do applications need to have a partnership with an individual outside of their home unit?

It is not a requirement but it is highly encouraged.

Is there a limit to the number of applications a researcher can submit?

An investigator can be listed as a Principal Investigator on one concurrent application, but there are no limits to the number of applications where an investigator may be listed as a co-Investigator or in other supporting roles.

Are students and/or postdocs eligible to apply?

Students and postdocs can be paid through the grant as a research assistant but cannot apply for a grant.

Can non-UNC partners be part of the grant?

The PI for the grant must be at UNC-Chapel Hill. Non-UNC partners can be unpaid contributors on the grant.

Can non-UNC affiliates be paid for research labor?
Generally no, but unique expertise outside of UNC-Chapel Hill may warrant it.


Application Process

What are the key stages in the application process?

The application process involves three main stages: Concept Note, Pitch (by invitation), and Full Proposal (by invitation). Each stage has specific requirements, as outlined in the full RFP (link).

When can I submit a Concept Note?

Concept Note submissions are ongoing and reviewed on a rolling basis. You can submit your Concept Note at any time during the academic year to a Research Advisory Council member.

Do proposals need to go through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) or Sponsored Program Office (SPO for School of Medicine)?

SDSS will provide awarded funds to the administering department or unit. Proposals do not need to go through OSP or SPO.

If a concept note has been denied, can we resubmit after revision?


Review Process

Who reviews the grant applications?

The leadership of SDSS, in consultation with the Research Advisory Council (RAC), reviews and makes final decisions on funding the grant proposals.


Award Details

How many seed grants are awarded, and what is the total funding available?

SDSS anticipates awarding between 0-5 seed grants each fiscal year, with a combined total of approximately $200,000.

Are there minimum or maximums for the grant requests?

There are no minimums nor maximums for grant requests, though SDSS anticipates awarding between 0-5 seed grants each fiscal year, with a combined total of approximately $200,000.

When will the funds be available if my proposal is selected?

If your proposal is selected, funds will be available approximately three months after the submission of the full proposal.

Can funds be used to pay for honorarium for invited speakers?

Funds can be used to pay for an honorarium.

Can funds be used to pay international institutions or individuals to do work on our behalf?

This is an allowable expense if the work is for project implementation or data collection.

It sounds like one of the deliverables could be research-ready data sets shared across campus. What about building repositories of shared data sets that are geared towards use in classes only?

The data sets collected for research could certainly be shared for use in classes, but the primary purpose of the data sets must be research for these seed grants.


Key Dates

When is the open invitation for the SDSS Seed Grant Program posted?

As a rolling program, updates to the RFP will be posted when necessary and will include a description of changes from the prior RFP.

Full Proposal Requirements

What is included in the Full Proposal?

A Full Proposal includes a Project Description, References Cited, Budget, Budget Justification, and administrative CV or biosketch for investigators and collaborators. Detailed guidelines are provided in the RFP website.


Award Conditions

What are the expectations for award recipients?

Awardees are expected to present progress updates to the ORS and its advisory committee, deliver presentations on their projects at SDSS events, and submit a final report detailing their accomplishments, including publications, patents, and grant submissions resulting from the grant. Applicants are also responsible for producing a final financial report detailing how the funds were expended.


Further Information

Is there a recording of the Q&A session?

Yes, find a recording of the Q&A session at the school’s YouTube channel.

Where can I find more information or get answers to specific questions?

For additional information or specific inquiries, please contact the SDSS Seed Grant Program at