The Challenge

The first-ever Data Science Bowl® challenged participants to examine more than 100,000 underwater images. The data was available thanks to sophisticated image capture methods pioneered by Hatfield Marine Science Center and their research partners. They were faced with volumes of information that would have taken years to manually analyze—data collected over one day takes one year! The challenge for the data science community was developing an algorithm that would enable researchers to monitor ocean health at a speed and scale never before possible.

Predicting Ocean Health, One Plankton at a Time

Like the smallest data point that can be the key to redefining an industry, plankton are key to Earth’s massively intricate ecosystems. A large and thriving plankton population is crucial. These organisms take 25% of CO2 released from burning fossil fuels every year. They also form the foundation for marine and terrestrial food chains. Because they are susceptible to small changes in temperature or water chemistry, plankton populations serve as an indicator for broader ocean health. A drop in plankton populations can be a predictor of devastating effects on our world.

Discoveries Make an Impact

More than 1,000 teams participated in the 2014/2015 Data Science Bowl®. They collectively submitted more than 15,000 solutions to the challenge. The algorithms they created are allowing rapid assessment of plankton population distributions and numbers, enabling the marine research community to monitor ocean health at an unprecedented speed and scale. These types of real-time insights have not been possible through manual identification and analysis and represent an important step forward in understanding as well as protecting the environment. The data science community benefited as well. Tutorials and sample code were used extensively for learning and skills development and insights from the competition helped advance the state of the art in computer vision and Deep Learning.

We’re excited to receive the winning algorithms from the Data Science Bowl and to test and validate these proofs of concepts in our own labs. Our hope is that we will be able to expand upon this research and, eventually, make it an open source tool for the marine research community.

Bob Cowen, Director Hatfield Marine Science Center

Competition Results

The top prize was awarded to Team Deep Sea, a team of deep learning specialists from Ghent University. They developed the most accurate classification algorithm, beating the current state of the art by more than 10% and for representing major advances for both the marine research and data science communities.

View the Public Leaderboard for other top-ranked entries from the 2014-2015 Data Science Bowl®.

2015 Partners

Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center

Data Science Bowl Data Provider/Partner

Bob Cowen, PhD
Bob Cowen, PhDProfessor & Director
Read Bio
Cedric Guigand
Cedric GuigandSenior Research Associate & Co-developer
Read Bio
Kelly Robinson, PhD
Kelly Robinson, PhDPostdoctoral Scholar
Read Bio
Jessica Luo
Jessica LuoPhD Student
Read Bio
Su Sponaugle, PhD
Su Sponaugle, PhDProfessor, Dept of Integrative Biology
Read Bio

Hatfield’s External Partners

Charles Cousin
Charles CousinDesign & Manufacturing
Read Bio

National Science Foundation

Independent Federal Agency

The competition data set used was based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. (1419987).

NSF supports research and education across all fields of science & engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget was $7.2 billion. NSF reaches all 50 states, funding grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, makes about 11,500 new funding awards, and awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts.

2015 Supporting Organizations

Solving the previously impossible is not easy. You need a community to enable and empower your success. As a group we can share experiences, strategies, and information that will truly allow us to affect change at a global scale. The organizations that support the Data Science Bowl® form the underpinnings of that community.


Submit Your Ideas

Got a big idea for us?
Ready to re-invent the future?
See potential ahead?

In our first contest, we dove deep with a microscopic lens to improve ocean health. In our last, we went on a life-saving mission to spot nuclei to diagnose killer diseases. In each case, we did what couldn’t be done before: bring the awesome creativity and capability of data scientists to open the doors to new approaches.

What should we tackle next? If you have ideas, let us hear from you!

We’re in the hunt for the next big problem to solve—a problem with the potential to change the world. If selected, the power of the entire data science community will be harnessed against it.

Contact us to submit your ideas or email Include an overview of the problem, your contact information, a brief description of the data, and where it can be obtained.

Contact Us