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Collaborative Project Support

Data Science, Statistics, and Visualization (DSSV) staff collaborate directly with Northwestern researchers on active research projects to provide specialized expertise and data science, statistics, and visualization skills necessary for the research.

DSSV supports projects in two categories depending on their stage of development:

  • Exploratory Projects assist researchers in determining the feasibility of an idea and developing a project plan. They are typically limited to a quarter in length and have as a primary output a detailed project plan for a Research Product Project. Exploratory Projects are also appropriate for developing grant proposals for funding for larger projects.
  • Research or Scholarly Product Projects aim to produce specific research or scholarly outputs, such as publications, data sets, data models, analyses, software, applications, or visualizations. These projects are typically 2-12 months long, and the need for skills from DSSV staff and project outputs are known and clearly defined when requesting support.

Support is provided by DSSV staffDSSV student consultants may work with DSSV staff on projects as appropriate. For examples of past projects, please visit our project portfolio.


Northwestern faculty from any school can apply for support. Postdocs, research staff, and graduate students with faculty sponsorship can apply, but faculty-led projects receive priority.

Researchers affiliated with the Feinberg School of Medicine and those working on NIH-funded research should first engage with, and may be referred to, the Biostatistics Collaboration Center, Quantitative Data Sciences Core, or other Core facilities as appropriate. Researchers affiliated with the Kellogg School of Management can seek support from Kellogg Research Support. These partners have specialized skills and resources to support research in their areas.

How to Apply

DSSV reviews proposals for collaborative projects on an ongoing basis. Applying well ahead of any deadlines increases our ability to allocate staff time to your project and fit your project into our schedule.

Information requested on the application includes:

  • Faculty member sponsoring the project
  • Other research team members who will be participating, if any
  • Type of project (Exploratory vs. Research Product)
  • For Research Product projects, what products is the project aiming to produce?
  • A one-page project statement similar to the Specific Aims sections in NIH and NSF proposals. This document should include the research questions the data will help answer and the technical challenges you face in answering these questions. How will the involvement of DSSV staff enable this project?
  • A description of the data including the approximate size, number of observations and variables, formats, where the data currently resides, and any security or access restrictions
  • The availability of financial resources to support the project, if any. Note: existing financial resources are not required to apply for support.
  • Any time restrictions the project may need to meet.
  • Agreement to DSSV Partnership Guidelines.

Areas of Support

DSSV staff have the experience to support a wide variety of projects. Examples include:

  • Conducting exploratory or statistical data analysis
  • Building predictive or machine learning models
  • Incorporating AI tools into the research process
  • Creating static or interactive visualizations for exploration, publication, or the web
  • Writing or improving existing code or packages
  • Designing data analysis approaches
  • Creating tools and scripts to facilitate data collection
  • Extracting data from documents or websites
  • Developing text analysis models
  • Identifying important variables and conducting feature engineering
  • Replicating data analysis components of existing research studies
  • Preparing data and code for publication

See our project portfolio for select examples of past projects.

When a project requires the development of innovative data science, statistical, computer science, or other methods that would constitute publishable advances in those fields, we will help connect you with other Northwestern researchers who may be able to collaborate on your research.

The DSSV team can build custom websites to interact with and visualize your data. For more general websites to share research outputs or information about your group, please contact the Media and Technology Innovation team or create one yourself with NUsites.

Evaluation Criteria

Applications for project support are evaluated by DSSV staff using several criteria.

  • Outcomes: What measurable research outcomes will the project produce?
  • DSSV Impact: Will research be significantly advanced through DSSV involvement in the project?
  • Data: Is the data available currently, or is data collection the project's primary outcome? If you plan to collect data in the future, please consider waiting to apply until you have the data available.
  • Skill fit: Do available DSSV staff have the skills necessary for the project to be successful?
  • Scope: Is the proposed project achievable with the resources and time available?
  • Faculty engagement: Is a faculty member actively engaged in the research project?


All researchers are encouraged to apply for DSSV support regardless of funding availability.

Costs for a project may include DSSV staff or student time, computing resources, or other tools necessary for the project. Discussion of the financial details is part of the project planning phase for accepted projects. Projects with existing funding are expected to cover at least some of the costs. For projects without funding, we can explore options for applying for funding when needed. Researchers are expected to bear the costs for any infrastructure, such as cloud computing services or data storage, needed beyond the end of the project.

Funding from Northwestern IT and the Office of the Provost enables the DSSV Collaborative Project Support Service.


Projects are managed from application through turnover to keep work on track.

  • Application: DSSV reviews proposals for projects on an ongoing basis.
  • Application review: Expect to hear a response to project proposals within two weeks.
  • Initial decision: After reviewing applications and staff availability, we may:
    • Set up a meeting to get more information. For example, we may need to see the data before estimating the time and resources required for your project.
    • Set up a meeting to scope a project plan or agreement. Proposals for Research Product Projects that would benefit from additional development may pursued as Exploratory Projects instead.
    • Refer your project to another organization on campus.
    • Encourage you to apply again in the future when we have more capacity.
    • Decline your project.
  • Project plan development: We will meet to agree on the project's scope, resources, cost, timeline, expected outcomes, and risks.
  • Project work: Most projects last two-12 months. We work to break larger projects into smaller parts with clear outcomes.
  • Project turnover: At the end of the project, we will meet to ensure your research team has the documentation and information you need to take ownership of and manage any project outputs. We will also discuss plans for completing any remaining work.
Apply Here

Additional Details

What happens when the project ends?

DSSV staff will document their work and deliver any code, data, and other project resources to your research team. You will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and compute or data resource costs. As part of the project turnover, we will discuss plans for any minimal follow-up work needed beyond the end of the project, such as manuscript production or review.

I have restricted data. Can you still help?

Yes. We will need to review your data use agreement or other specific restrictions to determine how we can collaborate. You may need to amend any data use agreement or IRB protocols to include DSSV staff supporting your project. Our team is trained in data security practices and can access secure storage and compute resources.

Will you do the work on my project for me?

DSSV staff will write code as needed to conduct analysis, create visualizations, explore data, and perform other agreed-upon data science, statistics, visualization, or software development work that is part of the project. However, projects are collaborative, and active participation from the project lead and other research team members is expected and essential for success. We will develop the specific expectations for each project together at the start. Please see our Partnership Guidelines.

How can I acknowledge work by DSSV team members?

Please see our Authorship and Acknowledgment Guidelines. We also appreciate any testimonials you may be willing to share about the impact of DSSV services on your research. Authorship, acknowledgments, and testimonials help us communicate the value of DSSV services for the Northwestern research community.

Can you help with larger projects that require dedicated support?

Possibly. When funding is available to cover salary and benefits, we may be able to dedicate DSSV staff time to a project for a sustained period. We are always happy to discuss possibilities for writing support for DSSV staff into grant proposals. Please get in touch via to discuss possible arrangements.

I have another question. Who should I ask?

Please email to get in touch with DSSV leadership.

Once you have read project expectations and agreed to the Partnership Guidelines, please submit your proposal.

Apply Here