TDAI Seed Grants

As part of its mission to empower faculty with resources to create data- and analytics-enriched solutions for research and real-world problems, the Translational Data Analytics Institute invites faculty throughout Ohio State annually to submit proposals for a TDAI seed grant.

TDAI defines “translational data analytics” as the application of data analytics theories and methods to generate solutions for real world problems. We tackle high-impact problems in all of their complexity, with an emphasis on problems whose solutions simultaneously advance scientific knowledge and provide benefits to society, and on solutions that take existing theories and inform them with data to make decisions. While TDAI acknowledges the centrality of particular disciplines, we also recognize that solving complex problems requires research teams that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries; these teams will often extend beyond the boundaries of the university to include partners in the local community, government, and industry.

Consistent with our focus on translation, TDAI encompasses both foundational and applied research. Foundational work advances data science theories and methods toward the discovery and development of data-enriched solutions by translating knowledge across traditional disciplinary boundaries. In addition, foundational work includes transformational and synergistic approaches to ethical, legal regulatory, and societal issues. Applied work in this area focuses on strategies and conditions needed to translate data-enriched solutions into real world settings.

TDAI’s seed grant program is designed to advance translational data analytics by:

  • Fostering a conducive environment of data analytics research, teaching, and innovation at Ohio State
  • Supporting the development of a dynamic and interactive community of scholars dedicated to identifying, sharply defining, and providing solutions to problems within the scope of TDAI through the formation of interdisciplinary teams to generate preliminary study concepts, technologies, data, and results
  • Maximizing transdisciplinary connections among faculty, staff, students, and external partners and bringing new talents, expertise, and resources together through collaborative work

Proposal applications are expected to generate new opportunities or novel extensions of existing activities, rather than simply provide supplementary funding for existing activities. It is expected that initial results will foster subsequent applications for extramural funding. Proposals likely to produce tangible results will be favored–including, but not limited to, manuscripts, external grant proposals, software modules and prototypes, monographs, or other products that could be included in TDAI’s Data Commons that is in development.




2017 guidelines and application


2017 Recipients

Two teams representing four colleges received a total of nearly $60,000 from TDAI in 2017. Funds were available to the teams Sept. 1, 2017, through Aug. 31, 2018.

"Measuring and analyzing active transportation using low-cost wireless sensor networks"×

TDAI affiliate Anish Arora, PI; Department of Computer Science and Engineering, College of Engineering

TDAI affiliate Harvey Miller, Co-PI; Bob and Mary Reusche Chair in Geographic Information Science, Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, and Professor, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences

Persistent, wide-area counting of pedestrians and cyclists is a key yet unserved need in a host of urban applications. Existing data sets in the US are especially limited in their spatio-temporal coverage. We propose to develop and demonstrate low-power, low-cost wireless sensor networks as a basis for addressing this need, and thereby enhance existing data sets as well as support analytics for planning and safety applications. This yearlong effort will pilot a wireless sensor network along the segment of the Olentangy River Road Bike Trail that goes through OSU’s campus and analyze the resulting dataset.

Award Amount: $30,000

Matching Support (not required): $32,719

"Quantifying the impacts of rivers on phosphorus exports to Lake Erie"×

TDAI affiliate Jim Hood, PI; Assistant Professor, Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology; College of Arts and Sciences

Jay Martin, PI; Professor, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and College of Engineering

Phosphorus (P) from the Maumee River watershed is the primary driver of harmful algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie. In 2017, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario developed a management plan to reduce P loading from the Maumee watershed by 40%. This plan requires substantial changes in land use within the watershed; yet, as with most P reduction plans, the potential efficacy of these efforts are uncertain due to a lack of understanding of the dynamics linking fertilizer application to riverine P yields. One of the primary areas of uncertainty concerns the dynamics of P within stream and rivers. In fact, many of the watershed models that have been used to forecast the ability of management plans to reduce P runoff typically ignore, or naively represent riverine P cycles. The watershed models contain mechanistic riverine P cycle equations that require empirically measured parameter values that are unknown. Therefore, most watershed models assume these processes have a net-zero effect on P yields. This is a critical knowledge gap because the magnitude of P retention and transformation (e.g., conversion of biologically recalcitrant to available forms of P) in rivers is highly variable in time and space. While some studies report low rates of P retention and transformation, others indicate that as much as 60% of available P can be removed in transport. Rivers can also be hotspots of transformations between available and recalcitrant P, shaping the biological reactivity of P exports. Thus, in-stream processes have the potential to influence the magnitude, timing, and availability of P exports from rivers. Unfortunately, aside from several time series of riverine P exports, there is no information about P cycling in the Maumee River.

Our research will clarify the role in-stream processes play in P retention and transformations in the Maumee watershed and improve the capacity of watershed models to mechanistically model these dynamics. This research need exists because (a) there is large uncertainty surrounding the potential role of riverine P cycles in shaping P export, (b) this uncertainty will likely increase with changes in land use and climate, and (c) the watershed models which are the basis for management decisions ignore these potentially important processes. Here, we propose research that will provide pilot data that will allow our group to pursue funding to expand the scope of this research through Ohio Sea Grant, NSF, USDA, and other state and federal agencies. We will also include outreach efforts to insure that our results inform future regional management plans. Our objectives are to (1) determine the importance of riverine P cycles in shaping P exports and (2) use our results to improve the capacity of watershed models to characterize in-stream processes.


Seed Grant Amount: $29,830

Matching Support (not required): $38,265

No results were found.

2016 Recipients

TDAI awarded seed grants to four faculty teams in December 2016. Selected by a group of 18 faculty reviewers from throughout the university, the recipients represented nine departments in four colleges. The funding, which totaled nearly $120,000, was made available to the awardees Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017.

“Building articulatory models for large child-caretaker vocal interaction corpora”×

Derek Houston, PI; Associate Professor, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, College of Medicine; Director, Buckeye Hearing and Development Center at Wexner Medical Center

Amanda Miller, Co-PI; Senior Researcher, Department of Linguistics, College of Arts and Sciences

Eric Fosler-Lussier, Faculty Participant; Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, College of Engineering

Andrew Plummer, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Department of Linguistics, College of Arts and Sciences

Jongmin Jung, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, College of Medicine

Speech sound production is fundamental to oral communication. Studies in the mid-1990s showed dire real-world consequences of speech differences found between toddlers who could hear their own early vocalizations and those who could not. Speech sound disorders are observed in 2 – 25% (median = 8-9%) of children, with the higher proportion found in younger children. Better understanding of children’s articulatory mechanisms by building early development models will directly aid Speech Language Pathologists teaching young children to become more competent communicators. We propose to develop novel methods for estimating articulatory configurations and motor control strategies used by infants and young children to produce vocalizations, and build models of speech production that are appropriate for infants and toddlers. Throughout the duration of the project, speech-language pathologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital who are working in the Buckeye Center for Hearing and Development will be actively involved in providing input about their needs and the challenges they face in working to improve the articulation of children experiencing speech sound disorders.

Award Amount: $26,300.75

“Optimization of agricultural conservation practices under a changing climate”×

TDAI affiliate Margaret Kalcic, PI; Assistant Professor, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

TDAI affiliate Steven Quiring, Co-PI; Professor, Atmospheric Sciences Program, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences

Agricultural lands in watersheds draining to western Lake Erie are under increasing pressure to maintain high crop yields while reducing the environmental, and particularly water quality, impacts of intensive agriculture. In August 2014, a harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie compromised the water supply of the city of Toledo and led to a three-day “do not drink” advisory for the city and surrounding areas. This was due to a combination of agricultural nutrient runoff and climatic conditions; Lake Erie’s western basin has had several larger algal blooms in other recent years (2011 and 2015). In February 2015, the U.S. states and Canadian province bordering Lake Erie agreed to a phosphorus load reduction to the lake that scientists expect will reduce the size of algal blooms (and other nutrient enrichment problems in the lake) to a more manageable level.

The primary source of Lake Erie’s nutrient enrichment is fertilizers and manures applied to agricultural lands that run off or leach into streams, rivers, and ultimately the lake. Decision-makers acknowledge that reaching water quality goals will be challenging and may reduce crop yields in the region. At the same time, agricultural stakeholders are already adapting their growing techniques to maintain high yields in a climate that has hotter and drier summers and wetter springtime conditions, when getting on the field is critical. The current political pressure to improve water quality, when added to the extreme events farmers are already experiencing due to climate variability and change, creates an opportunity for farmers and other stakeholders in the region to adopt more resilient farming practices.

Despite significant advances in quantifying how climate change will impact agricultural production, significant knowledge gaps remain, particularly related to future climate extremes (i.e., floods, droughts). These gaps include: (1) spatial and temporal scale mismatches, (2) lack of agreement between climate models and scenarios, and (3) impacts that are a result of complex coupled human-natural systems are difficult to accurately define and simulate. The goal of this project is to support decision-making under deep uncertainty by identifying an optimal set of conservation practices for agricultural production given future climate changes.

Award amount: $30,000

“Quantifying the structure of human experience with data streams from smartphones”×

Jihun Hamm, Research Scientist, Department Computer Science and Engineering, College of Engineering

Per Sederberg, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences

TDAI affiliate Mikhail Belkin, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, College of Engineering

By understanding how people go through each day along with what they perceive and learn during real-life events, we can have a tremendous impact on many fields. For example, a population-level model of what people do when and where can improve urban planning and public resource management. An individualized model of daily experience can be used for computerized personal assistants or detecting changes in one’s behavioral pattern that might be linked to an illness. Statistical patterns of daily events have been mined from databases such as American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which consists of timelines of daily activity and places collected from a large number of (n~50,000) participants. Yet, with a phone interview-based survey like ATUS, it is practically impossible to collect data in a time scale beyond a few days. Nor can we obtain fine-grained measurements of individual experiences from surveys with enough detail to differentiate patterns of, e.g., people with mild cognitive impairment and healthy groups.

However, the situation has changed with the proliferation of smartphones, with an estimated 200 million devices in the U.S. alone. Smartphones are an enabling technology for collecting behavioral data unobtrusively from people in their everyday environments, through continuous sensing of location, motion, audio, image, and calling and messaging activity. The PIs and their collaborators have worked on building such a life logging system, which we have validated and is currently ready to deploy for data collection initiatives.

Using rich sensory and meta-data acquired from the system, we intend to develop machine-learning algorithms to quantify daily human experience by event segmentation, classification, and prediction. The specific aims:

  • Capture daily experience of individuals using continuous sensory recordings from smartphones
  • Build accurate machine learning algorithms for segmenting, classifying, and predicting events from sensory data
  • Conduct a pilot study with 20 participants from healthy and mildly cognitively-impaired group to: a) quantify changes in the structure of experience that predict disease, and b) lay the foundation for a memory intervention

Award amount: $30,000

“Unexploded ordnance and agricultural productivity: Using remote sensing to detect the long-term impact of U.S. bombing of Cambodia”×

Erin Lin, PI; Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, College of Arts and Science

TDAI affiliate Rongjun Qin, Co-PI; Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering

The weapons left behind from war—carpet bombs, cluster munitions, landmines—pose a significant risk to the communities left to live on that land. However, unexploded ordnance (UXO) are difficult to find, oftentimes hidden underneath several inches of ground. It remains a challenge for farmers, clearance teams, and aid organizations to identify contaminated areas.

Instead of traditional, high-risk in-person surveying, we will develop a remote-sensing method to identify the location of unexploded ordnance. This method combines declassified U.S. Air Force data on payload drop sites from the secret bombing of Cambodia with high-resolution maps of terrain features and contemporary vegetation. By developing machine-learning methods on the images, we can identify an important element of post-bombardment geography: bomb craters, which provide a physical evidence of the number of bombs that have detonated within each drop zone. The U.S. Air Force data provide the number of bombs that were dropped in each payload, with the coordinates of each drop site. Since, for each payload, we know the total number of bombs dropped and the number of bombs detonated, we can estimate the number and density of unexploded ordnance left within each drop zone.

As part of the process, we will use moderate resolution multispectral imagery to identify crop activity and yield, a new method that employs both temporal and reflective spectral statistics to generate granular data on cultivation and crop productivity. These remotely sensed images have been captured, rendered, and disseminated every eight days since 1998 through a U.S. government initiative, so we can develop a rich sense of land use patterns for the past two decades.

The impact of UXO on the quantity of arable land can be estimated from these data using maximum likelihood techniques or a threshold regression model. By the end of data collection, we will be able to estimate the degree to which UXO change the total area of active agricultural land, and how persistent this effect is, from 1998 to present day. The impact of UXO on arable land will be reported to raise the awareness of the importance of de-mining.

Award amount: $29,960

No results were found.

2015 Recipient

TDAI awarded its inaugural seed grant to affiliate Kui Xie, Cyphert Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology’s Department of Educational Studies and the director of the Digital Learning Research Lab.

Project title: “Using Learning Analytics in Examining Students’ Learning Habits in Online Nursing Classes”

Award amount: $24,970