Our first round of Google Research Awards for 2011

June 9, 2011

Posted by Maggie Johnson, Director of Education & University Relations

We’ve just finished awarding the latest round of Google Research Awards, which provide funding to full-time faculty working on research in areas of mutual interest with Google. A record number of submissions came in this round, and we are delighted to be funding 112 awards across 21 different focus areas for a total of more than $6.75 million. The subject areas that received the highest level of support were systems and infrastructure, human computer interaction, Geo/maps and machine learning. Thanks to strong international collaborations, 23% of the funding in this round was awarded to universities outside the U.S.

In prior years, we’ve used this blog post to highlight some of our top-ranked projects, but this year, we’d like to give you an inside look into how we determine the award recipients.

Designating the awards involves a careful and detailed review process. First, we have a set of internal research leads, each a well-known expert in their field, review all the proposals in their area. They assess the proposals on merit, innovation, connection to Google’s products and services and fit with our overall research agenda. The research leads then assign several volunteer reviewers—culled from experts on their team or other Google engineers holding PhDs—to weigh each proposal.

All these reviews are recorded in an internal grant administration system, and the research leads make their funding recommendations. These recommendations are aggregated and a series of committee meetings are run, one for each research area. The research lead attends, along with members of the university relations team and executives in research. This committee reviews each proposal that the research lead has recommended for funding, using the same criteria mentioned above. This additional review process may change the proposal rankings and sometimes brings back other proposals for reconsideration.

Once the committee meetings are complete, we make the final funding decisions, which are based on the available budget and balancing the funding across research areas and geographic regions. The final decisions are reviewed one last time by research management, and then we distribute the awards to the selected faculty.

As the number of submissions for these research awards continues to grow, we remain committed to a merit-based review process with effective checks and balances. Congratulations to the well-deserving recipients of this round’s awards, and if you are interested in applying for the next round (deadline is August 1), please visit our website for more information.