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Ashley Wimer of GLAS Education is deep diving into the grant process for research into sonification. “The search is on now to find which funding programs are available,” she said. “Sonification is the process of taking visual data and turning it into sound,” Ashley said during a presentation at GLAS Education on July 20.

GLAS is planning to apply for a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for sonification research. It takes almost as much work to apply for the grant as it does to do the research.To justify the grant request, the NSF requires a Research Coordination Structure or RCN. The RCN is the core of the research planning and funding application. To guide the process, a steering committee has already been formed from volunteers participating in the Sonification World Chat (SWC). The SWC is an informal online gathering of sonification researchers from around the world. The SWC, which meets once every two months, was organized by Kate Meredith, founder and director of GLAS Education.

“The steering committee will create a basic structure for the RCN,” Ashley said. Within that RCN, the committee will define the research challenge, explain what the research will do, and show the intellectual merit of the research. The sonification RCN must show that the accessibility created by sonification will improve science. The committee also needs to connect with the director of the appropriate funding source within the NSF.

The goal of sonification is to make Big Data more accessible. Big Data refers to large and complex collections of raw information used in specific research. Sonification would make that data accessible to blind and visually impaired researchers who find it difficult to deal with visual data, but could also help sighted researchers by providing a new way to sense and classify data.One of the basic challenges is to standardize as a tool for analyzing large data sets. “The sounds used for sonification need to be standardized,” Ashley said. For that, technical expertise will be needed. “You need people who can create sound,” Ashley said. Right now, sonification suffers from a lack of cooperation among different fields of research, which limits innovation and there is insufficient collaboration with blind and visually impaired researchers, which further limits sonification potential.

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