UC Davis DataLab: Data Science and Informatics is accepting applications from UC Davis Faculty and professional researchers for Start-Up Project Collaborations for the 2021 academic year. These exploratory, or early phase, research projects pair domain area researchers with DataLab’s data scientists in order to test basic hypotheses related to data-driven domain problems. This represents a significant DataLab effort to support researchers with an idea for a data-driven research project, but who lack the technical and data science expertise to carry out the research, to gather data and/or perform preliminary exploration and hypothesis testing. The specific aim of this exploratory work will be to hone or determine the validity of proposed research question(s) relative to the available data, pilot a potential approach, and/or produce pilot results suitable for the joint development of successful proposals for multi-year, collaborative, externally funded research.

Focus, duration and scope of projects

Projects can be at any stage of the research pipeline for the given research question (data gathering, cleaning, management, analysis, visualization, interpretation, dissemination, preservation) and feature any type of data (e.g., numeric, text, image, audio, etc.). Prior projects have included, but are not limited to:

  • modeling, data exploration;
  • visualization, including large-scale 3D/virtual reality;
  • text analysis and natural language processing;
  • network analyses;
  • image classification;
  • informatics.

Products from the Start-Up are exploratory in nature and additional work may be necessary for publication and production-ready products. Accepted projects will be scoped to include statements of work and project deliverables that can be successfully achieved within 8-12 weeks from the start of work.  Examples of prior projects can be found on our Research pages.

Projects will be selected and initial scoping and planning meetings held virtually in early March 2021 before the end of Winter quarter 2021 such that the team can begin work in earnest at the start of Spring quarter 2021. The 2021 academic year’s Start-Up Project Collaborations will leverage DataLab’s data scientists and participation from student interns enrolled in our honors data science series.

What researchers receive as part of the award

  • Regular consultation with the DataLab directorate;
  • Technical project management by DataLab staff;
  • Up to 40 hours per week of dedicated DataLab staff data scientist time to work on the project (spread across staff and students with different specialties as needed to best support the project);
  • Customized training opportunities for partnering groups on an as needed basis;
  • Access to DataLab compute infrastructure as necessary for completion of the project;
  • Up to $1,500 dollars as needed in fees for licensing data required to complete the proposed project;
  • All project PIs invited to become DataLab Affiliates.
  • (Note: due to the pandemic, access to DataLab physical facilities in Shields Library, including interior office space, is not available at this time.)

Expectations of participating researchers

  • Participation in weekly (virtual) project meetings;
  • Ability to dedicate focused time towards the completion of the proposed project during the identified time period;
  • Availability to DataLab staff and directorship for communications (phone, email, Zoom, etc.) required to keep project moving forward successfully between project meetings;
  • Review and contributions to the final project report and documentation;
  • Present research at a DataLab hosted event (timing to be mutually determined);
  • Participation in a DataLab networking event;
  • Provide attribution to DataLab in any resulting products from the collaboration;
  • Actively seek out, co-write and co-PI suitable follow-up applications for external funding to expand and continue the research. (Expectation is that domain researchers would be the primary PI on a domain-focused grant, whereas DataLab would lead on a technical or data science-focused grant.)

Who can apply

Any principal investigators (PIs) from any department at UC Davis and UC Davis Health are eligible to apply.  Postdoctoral scholars and advanced graduate students seeking support for a project may write a proposal but require support and engagement from their faculty mentor.

Evaluation of proposals

All proposals will be evaluated by an external review committee consisting of at representatives from DataLab’s directorate, faculty advisory board, and affiliate community. Priority will be given to projects that the committee deems: (a) to have the highest potential for impact; (b) most likely to lead to larger, externally funded research efforts; and (c) most technologically feasible within the scope and resources of the program.

Application process

Applicants should submit a narrative proposal of approximately 2-3 pages (but no more than 5 pages) that includes the following:

  • A description of the basic research question/hypothesis for the proposed project;
  • Brief discussion of what, if any, approaches you have tried and why you need data science support;
  • A description of the dataset(s) to be analyzed, including:
    • any known issues with data access, copyright, or required licensing fees;
    • a statement to the effect of whether you have permission to share and distribute the data;
    • a real or pseudo sample of the data (not counted as part of proposal page limit);
  • A description of how the project fits within your larger research goals and agenda;
  • A discussion of the potential impact of findings on your research domain;
  • A list of known funding programs and/or sources which would be targeted for funding follow-up research;
  • CVs of all PIs and primary project participants (2-page biosketch preferred) and a list (with email contacts) of all members of the domain project team including any postdocs, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff or other human resources who will directly participate in the project (not counted as part of proposal page limit).

Submit applications for the 2021 application cycle via email to DataLab with the subject “Start-Up Project Application 2021” no later than noon (PST) on Monday, February 22, 2021. Applications will be reviewed as received, with projects selected and initial scoping and planning meetings held virtually in early March. Project work will be completed in Spring quarter 2021.


Contact datalab@ucdavis.edu. We are also available to talk about your proposal during our weekly office hours (Mondays 1:30-3pm).