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May 1, 2014

Info sciences doctoral program funded

The School of Information Sciences has received an award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a new doctoral fellowship program for information sciences students worldwide who are working on digital projects designed to enhance scholarly productivity and enrich teaching.

The $726,000 award will support a program for 10 “iFellows” who will supplement the work of the Committee on Coherence at Scale with independent dissertation research.

The Committee on Coherence at Scale is comprised of academic leaders nationwide who examine emerging national-scale digital projects and their potential to transform higher education in terms of scholarly productivity, teaching, cost-efficiency and sustainability. It is sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources and Vanderbilt University.

School of Information Sciences Dean Ronald L. Larsen and Visiting Professor and Mellon Cyberscholar Stephen Griffin conceived the doctoral fellowship program in collaboration with the Committee on Coherence at Scale.

Larsen said: “Contemporary scholarship is changing rapidly in this digital age. The iFellows program is designed to help the academic community boost collaboration and effectiveness on a national and even international scale.”

Five iFellows will be selected in 2015 with five more selected in 2016. Each will receive a stipend of $50,000 to support his/her development of a PhD dissertation focused on issues related to Coherence at Scale. These include addressing topics such as scalable infrastructure, scholarly workflow and the transformation of contemporary scholarship, increasingly characterized by the use of large scale, Internet-based data and computational resources. The development of these resources makes “this an exceptionally exciting time in the development of large scale, linked knowledge infrastructures,” Griffin said.

In addition to supporting Coherence at Scale, the doctoral fellowship program will support the goals of the iSchools organization, an international consortium of schools whose primary focus is to understand the relationships between information, technology and people. Pitt is a founding member of the iSchools organization.

“The iSchools organization has grown from a founding membership of 10 U.S. institutions in 2005 to its current global membership numbering 55 universities in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia,” Larsen said. “The rapid growth and evolution of the organization is a direct response to the ongoing explosive creation of digital information and its centrality to human endeavors.”

Doctoral students from the 55 member schools of the global iSchools will be invited to apply for the fellowship program by submitting proposals demonstrating how their dissertation topics will fit the overall agenda of the Coherence at Scale project.

The iFellows will be paired with faculty advisers and mentors from Pitt and other iSchool institutions.

The fellowship program will complement a companion planning grant from the Mellon Foundation awarded to Vanderbilt University to support the work of the Committee on Coherence at Scale.