Google Starts Grant Program for Scholars of Digitized Books

From the Wired Campus (Chronicle of Higher Education), March 31, 2010

Even as a lawsuit over Google’s book-digitization project remains up in the air, the search giant has quietly started reaching out to universities in search of humanities scholars who are ready to roll up their sleeves and hit the virtual stacks.

The company is creating a “collaborative research program to explore the digital humanities using the Google Books corpus,” according to a call for proposals obtained by The Chronicle. Some of Google’s academic partners say the grant program marks the company’s first formal foray into supporting humanities text-mining research.

The call went out to a select group of scholars, offering up to $50,000 for one year. Google says it may choose to renew the grants for a second year. It is not clear whether anybody can apply for the money, or just the group that got the solicitation.

The effort seems largely focused on building tools to comb and improve Google’s digital library, whose book-search metadata—dates and other search-assisting information—one academic researcher calls a “train wreck.” These are some of the sample projects that Google lists in its call for proposals:

• Building software for tracking changes in language over time.

• Creating utilities to discover books and passages of interest to a particular discipline.

• Developing systems for crowd-sourced corrections to book data and metadata.

• The testing of a literary or historical hypothesis through innovative analysis of a book.

For more details of the program, read the full Chronicle story.