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School of Data Science and Society Seed Grants

The School of Data Science and Society (SDSS) is shaping the evolving field of data science through data-driven discovery — the iterative process through which innovations in the collection and modeling of data generate valuable, problem-solving insights, which can in turn lead to further theoretical and applied innovation.

The school’s Research Advisory Council (RAC) is a group of faculty and staff from across the University campus that advises on strategic research issues, program allocations, core facilities and research program infrastructure.

We are excited to announce a seed grant program designed to link and grow the existing culture of interdisciplinary data science research and excellence at Carolina. These seed grants will be reviewed by the school’s-RAC and are designed to jumpstart collaborations that lead to innovations in the following core research pillars of SDSS:

  • Data: Methods of collection, storage, dissemination, and translation of data into actionable information.
  • Algorithms and Models: Computational and statistical tools to enable researchers and stakeholders to discover, create, analyze, present, synthesize, and consume data.
  • Applications: Sound and creative deployments of both data and models to advance interdisciplinary domains of knowledge, as well as offer solutions to pressing social problems.
  • Social Impact: The study of unintended consequences and ethical questions raised by the ways in which data is used to address some of society’s most pressing issues.

Through these, SDSS hopes to incentivize teams of researchers to address specific problems through the generation of innovative solutions in any of the core pillars, identifying the relevant knowledge frontiers and ways to push them forward. Cross-pillar research projects are especially encouraged. At the end of the pilot grant funding period, awardees should be able to accomplish one of the following:

  1. Offer new shared resources that can help catalyze the broader Carolina community to participate in data-driven discovery. Examples include but are not limited to the creation of unique research-ready datasets, software, or models of interest to the broader campus community.
  2. Stimulate cross-disciplinary collaborations across campus through data-driven discovery.
  3. Articulate a larger-scale project designed to attract extramural funding and/or lead to commercialization pathways.

Grant size and awardee benefits: The most commonly awarded grant size is anticipated to be between $20,000 and $50,000 in support for one year. We anticipate awarding up to 10 awards for this program. Funds will be provided at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, 2023. In addition, awardees will receive:

  • Advisory support from the RAC and leadership of SDSS
  • Support from SDSS communications
  • Opportunities to showcase their work at events organized by SDSS
  • Opportunity to nominate a speaker for the SDSS distinguished speaker series

Key Dates

RFP Posted Mar. 22, 2023
Question and Answer Session (Zoom link) April 3, 2023 | 1:00 p.m.
Networking Event and Interest Meeting April 20, 2023 | 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Full proposal due May 15, 2023
Selections announced June​​ 1, 2023
Earliest award date  July 1, 2023


Contact Information

Please visit our web page with frequently asked questions. Please write to with with any additional questions.

How to Apply


Team leads (PI or co-PI) must have a faculty appointment at a UNC-Chapel Hill department or school and/or an appointment in a UNC-Chapel Hill center or institute and be eligible to serve as principal investigators with national funding agencies. To encourage interdisciplinary activity, the lead must partner with groups or individuals outside of their home department. A team lead can only lead a single application though could be a supporting collaborator on other applications.

Individuals from underrepresented groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply.

Application Instructions

Please use 1-inch margins and use a font size no smaller than 11pt. to ensure readability.

Full proposals will consist of the following components, detailed below:

(1) Proposal Cover Page: Please use the provided template.

(2) Project Description (3 pages): The project description should be written with a broad scholarly audience in mind.

The project description should include sufficient detail such that reviewers can evaluate all review criteria that have been defined to determine the appropriateness and feasibility of the project. The project description must articulate a clear set of goals. Figures and images are optional but are counted towards the page limit.

The project description should include the following sections (suggested page allocation):

Research Plan (~2 pages): This section should address how the proposed research program is consistent with the Key Review Criteria. It should include a discussion of the major challenges in the field/current frontier, a description of innovativeness of the proposed research, and how the research outcomes will catalyze broader participation in data-driven discovery. If there are specialized computational or data resources that are needed for the proposed research, please provide a description of the resource. Describe if your team already has access or will need access to carry out the project.

Work Plan (~1/2 page): Outline the plan of work, with milestones to be achieved and metrics to gauge success.

Scalability Plan (~1/2 page): Include plans for scalability to attract extramural support, including name of the private or public sponsor, agency or source names, agency programs that would be the source of funding, timelines for proposal submissions, and potential amounts of funding. Scalability considerations may also be in the form of commercialization pathways via patents, licensing, spin-offs, and/or investment from the private sector.

(3) References Cited: Include a list of any references cited in the Project Description in any format appropriate for your field of work.

(4) Budget: Provide a single, one-year budget.

Format: Please use the provided Excel template form. Note that there are two tabs to be completed: “Requested Funds” and, if applicable, “Cost-Sharing Funds.”

Please note that these funds are governed by the applicable university policies on research expenditures and compliance. This includes, but is not limited to, the Research Code of Conduct and the policies pertaining to human subjects and privacy, vertebrate animals, hazardous materials, export control and conflict of interest.

Funds may be used for any allowable research-related expense. It is expected that the majority of the budget will be direct costs for scholarly research, graduate student or post-doc time, and other research-related costs, including workshops and symposia. Proposers should be thoughtful about minimizing proposed other costs and note the following:

  • Minimal faculty salary may be included.
  • Funds can be used for partial FTE project management support.
  • Can be used for workshop expenses

Funds cannot be used for:

  • Developing a small grants program.
  • Purchase of equipment.
  • Travel or conference-related expenses for key personnel
  • F&A charges at other institutions
  • International work or travel due to source funding restrictions.

(5) Budget Justification (up to two pages): Describe what funds are requested, providing a detailed breakdown of the proposed spending in each category as well as a justification for the numbers provided.

(6) Biosketches (up to a maximum of three pages each) are requested of all senior or key personnel. Biosketches confirming to NSF or NIH are acceptable. Applicants may choose to use this NSF template.

Key personnel include lead investigators and co-investigators. You may choose to provide biosketches for collaborators, or those providing significant contributions to the intellectual development of the project.

Submission Instructions

Proposals should be submitted as one document in PDF format to  with “SDSS Seed Grant Submission” in the subject of your email by 5 p.m. on May 15, 2023.

Review Process

The Research Advisory Council of the School of Data Science and Society will review proposals.

Key review criteria include:

  • Impact on Carolina Data Science Community – Ability to create additional participation of the Carolina research community in data driven discovery through the creation or enhancement of resources (such as data, software, models, etc.) that can enhance or facilitate other research projects at UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • Innovation and Impact — Ability to provide solutions to important challenges and/or generate new fundamental knowledge in and across the pillars of SDSS.
  • Feasibility — Clearly articulated plan with description of feasibility, work-plan, milestones, and outcomes
  • Scalability— Potential for the proposed program and team to
    • Compete successfully for identified further funding from public or private entities, such as government agencies, corporations, private foundations, and/or venture capital; OR
    • Initiate numerous high-yield research projects; OR
    • Create commercialization pathways via patents, licensing, spin-offs, and/or investment from the private sector.
  • Budget — Reasonableness of the budget and justification.

Award policies and procedures

Presentations to Campus and Lay Audiences 

Awardees should be prepared to develop and deliver a presentation on their projects suitable for campus leadership or lay audiences. 

Final Report 

On July 1, 2024, a two-page final report will be due to SDSS that details accomplishments to date. This report should describe research accomplishments as well as tangible results, such as publications, presentations at symposia, patents and grant submissions/awards that were produced/obtained as a consequence of funding provided by the seed grant program. Plans for the submission of proposals for extramural funding should be included, and SDSS should be notified of subsequent awards.