Seed Funds Program

Funding Opportunity for Faculty & Research Staff

Call for Applications 2019/2020 Download PDF

Every field has data. We use data to discover new knowledge, to interpret the world, to make decisions, and even to predict the future. The recent convergence of big data, cloud computing, and novel machine learning algorithms and statistical methods is causing an explosive interest in data science and its applicability to all fields. This convergence has already enabled the automation of some tasks that better human performance. The novel capabilities we derive from data science will drive our cars, treat disease, and keep us safe. At the same time, such capabilities risk leading to biased, inappropriate, or unintended action. The design of data science solutions requires both excellence in the fundamentals of the field and expertise to develop applications which meet human challenges without creating even greater risk.

The Data Science Institute at Columbia University is a world-leading institution in research and education in the theory and practice of the emerging field of data science. The Data Science Institute’s mission is:

  1. Advance the state of the art in data science;
  2. Transform all fields, professions, and sectors through the application of data science;
  3. Ensure the responsible use of data for the benefit of society

It is in this context that the Data Science Institute at Columbia University promotes “Data for Good”: using data to address societal challenges and bringing humanistic perspectives as—not after—new science and technology is invented.

Program Goal

The goal of the DSI Seeds Funds Program is to support new collaborations that will lead to longer term and deeper relationships among faculty in different disciplines across campus. Aimed at advancing research that combines data science expertise with domain expertise, the DSI Seed Funds Program's funded research should embody the spirit of the Institute's mission statement. We are as interested in the application of data science to all domains as in bringing in the sensibilities of other domains, especially to address the fair and ethical use of data.

The Institute is thus pleased to announce a call for proposals from Columbia University faculty and research staff for DSI Seed Funds. We are looking for novel projects that bring together scholars into a team that aspires to do research that no one individual team member could achieve alone. We especially encourage, but do not require, using Seed Funds to support graduate students, post-docs, and/or applied data scientists who will work at the intersection of data science and other domains. We seek proposals that represent new collaborations, which ideally can prepare them for future proposal submissions to government, industry or foundations.


Funding is available for up to five projects, up to $100,000 annually, for a maximum of two years. As a condition of funding, awardees will be required to submit quarterly financial reviews and biannual progress reports. Eligibility for continued funding for a second year will also require a progress report. All reports must include progress on external funding proposal submission(s).

The Data Science Institute's Research Scientists represent a wide range of expertise that may accelerate your research project. Applicants may include a request for their effort as part of their Seed Fund proposal and budget (inclusive of the $100,000 annual budget). 

NEW: The Herbert & Florence Irving Institute for Cancer Dynamics

The Data Science Institute and the Herbert and Florence Irving Institute for Cancer Dynamics are collaborating to support up to two seed grants, up to $100,000 annually, for a maximum of two years, that align with their shared mission of improving the understanding of cancer biology, origins, treatment and prevention through data-driven methods and processes. The Institute is particularly interested in candidates that may further advance core research in Statistical and Probabilistic Modeling.  If you wish to have your Seed Fund application reviewed for this opportunity as well, please indicate as such on the application coverpage (check box).  For more information about the Herbert and Florence Irving Institute for Cancer Dynamics, please refer to:

Proposal Process

The deadline for submission is Friday, November 1, 2019 by 3:00 pm. We will not accept incomplete or late submissions. We anticipate notifying award recipients by December 20, 2019.

Please submit the following materials via email, in .doc or .pdf format, to, by the Friday, November 1, 2019, 3:00 pm deadline:

The Data Science Institute’s review committee for submitted proposals will consist of members of the Institute's Executive Committee and Center Chairs. An external reviewer (e.g., domain expert) may be asked by the review committee to assist with the review process. In an effort to mitigate conflicts of interest, members of the review committee who are included in others’ proposals, or who wish to submit a proposal in their respective research area, will be excused from the review process and any decision regarding proposal funding.

Prior Seed Fund Awardees:

To review write-ups for the past Seed Fund program selectees, click below:

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