Frequently Asked Questions

Am I required to provide a report to the Corporate Partner? Are there any deadlines for finishing my project?

About a year after the project launch, a closing symposium will be held at Wharton’s Philadelphia or San Francisco campus. During this event, research teams will present the hard work they’ve done over the past year to WCAI and representatives from the Corporate Partner.

However, we do not expect projects to be completed by the symposium date, and most teams continue to work after the symposium until the project is completed. Research teams are able to use the data for their specific project for as long as is needed.

Can I augment the data provided with my own external data or lab experiments?

Yes, absolutely! Proposals for this type of work are generally evaluated favorably. We ask only that you describe your plans in your proposal.

Can I drop out if the data turns out to be ill suited for my project or if my research plans change?

We understand that research is a risky endeavor, and things don’t always work out as planned. Any research team may drop out at any time for any reason.

To formally withdraw from a project, please provide us with a brief explanation of what you have done to date and why you have decided not to pursue the project further. We will also require written confirmation that the data has been deleted by all members of the team mailed to the WCAI Research Team at wcai-research@wharton.upenn.edu.

Do I have to be part of the University of Pennsylvania to submit a proposal?

Teams do not need to be affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania to participate in a Research Opportunity. Researchers from all institutions worldwide are encouraged to submit a proposal!

How do I find out about WCAI Research Opportunities?

WCAI announces each Research Opportunity via a live webinar. During the webinar, scholars can learn about the research problem, get an understanding of the dataset, and have questions answered by representatives for the Corporate Partner. Webinars are announced by email to members of the WCAI mailing list, as well as  venues that target scholars such as ELMAR, INFORMS section listservs, KDnuggets,  and other online communities that are likely to find the particular Research Opportunity appealing.

How do I know that the data are going to be ‘good’? What if the data described in the Research Opportunity aren’t exactly what I need?

When WCAI develops a Research Opportunity with a Corporate Partner, we try to assemble a dataset that will provide as much information as possible relevant to a particular problem, and then describe that data in the webinar. The webinar slides typically describe the structure of the data and the names of key fields included. We also provide summary statistics that describe the variation in the data so researchers can think about what types of models the data might support. We encourage researchers to ask questions during the webinar, as it provides the opportunity to receive answers directly from the Corporate Sponsor.

If there are variables relevant to your research that were not included in the webinar’s description of the dataset, we encourage you to note these requests in your proposal. We can’t guarantee that it will be available (or even exists), but we are happy to look into its availability.

How is a WCAI Research Opportunity different from a consulting engagement?

When developing a Research Opportunity with WCAI, Corporate Partners are encouraged to bring forward their most fundamental and critical business challenges. The Center works to stress the fact that while academic projects tackle the most challenging problems, they do tend to take longer than the average consulting engagement and can be somewhat unpredictable. In general, WCAI Corporate Partners do not expect the same short timelines or frequent status updates as they might get from a vendor.

Research teams have much more control and creative freedom over their own projects, and are encouraged to share the key findings with the Data Sponsor when the paper is complete.

How will I get the data?

After the teams are selected to pursue the opportunity, we ask that everyone on the selected team sign a standard data sharing agreement that outlines how the data may be used. The agreement always allows for publication of research findings based on the data, but may restrict researchers from using the data for other uses, such as teaching. After that agreement is signed, researchers will be invited to download the delimited text files. WCAI also develops a comprehensive data key for each Research Opportunity to help teams understand and interpret the data.

I’m interested in a dataset from one of the past Research Opportunities. Can I get access?

After the Research Opportunity comes to completion, some of our Corporate Partners opt to make their data available to a broader pool of researchers for educational purposes. A list of available datasets can be found here (click the “Available Opportunities” widget towards the top). However, to be fair to the originally accepted research teams, we cannot accept new proposals while the Research Opportunity is ongoing.


If I can’t make it to the webinar, can I still submit a proposal?

Absolutely! All webinars are archived on our Research Page and can be viewed at your convenience. The archive is typically posted 1-2 days after the webinar.

If WCAI awards the Research Opportunity to more than one group will each group receive the same data?

Yes, each team will receive the same data. Any updates made to the data during the course of the projects (e.g., if a data error is discovered or if additional data is provided at the request of one team) will be made available to all teams.

Is there a typical length and format for the proposals? Why such a short time between the webinar and the proposal due date?

Our objective is to move quickly, keeping the process as efficient as possible for both the proposers and the reviewers. We have a limit of 2,000 words – keep it short and sweet. Simply provide us with a pdf document that tells us:

1) What you intend to do

2) How the research will contribute to the academic literature

3) Why you think it will be valuable to the Corporate Partner

You can find submission guidelines and examples of some well-received proposals on the “Get The Data” page. In addition to your written proposal, we ask all teams to provide us with one slide describing your work at a managerial-level. The goal for this slide is to give the Corporate Sponsor an easy-to-understand, visual summary of your research project, similar in spirit to the NSF Discoveries reports. We have found that communicating the project goals at this managerial  level helps the Corporate Partner better understand the projects and generates enthusiasm and support for the project going forward. Our preferred format for this slide is PowerPoint (an example is available at the end of the sample proposal document).


Is there funding associated with a Research Opportunity?

Generally, there is no funding associated with a Research Opportunity, but if you have a specific need for funding directly related to the Research Opportunity, please let us know and we will consider it. (Please note that we do not provide funding for salaries, fellowships or computer equipment.) We are also happy to work with a team that plans to apply to other funding sources to pursue the Research Opportunity.

What are my obligations if I am awarded the data?

First and foremost, we want you to do great research! There are a few points during the Research Opportunity where teams will participate in a conference call, but the goal of these meetings is to give you a greater understanding of the data, as well as to spark new ideas and support your research.

The Research Opportunity culminates after one year in a closing symposium at Wharton’s Philadelphia or San Francisco campus, and we ask that at least one member of each team attend and present the team’s findings at this event.

You can read more about the Research Opportunity timeline  on the For Researchers page.

What if there is an activity that I want to do with the Corporate Partner during the research project, for example, interviews with senior management or field experiments on the Corporate Partners’ website?

While we cannot make any guarantees, requests such as this may be possible. We ask that you describe your plans in your project proposal, making a case for why the company should invest the time and resources necessary to do what you are asking. The company will then evaluate your proposal and make a decision.

What should I do if I have questions that aren’t answered here?

Additional questions can be e-mailed to the WCAI Research Team at wcai-research@wharton.upenn.edu.

When are proposals due?

Proposals are typically due two weeks after the webinar. A specific due date will be given in each webinar broadcast. Researchers may request a 3-day proposal extension by submitting an email to wcai-research@wharton.upenn.edu. Unfortunately, we cannot accept proposals submitted after the due date unless arrangements are made in advance.

Who evaluates the proposals?

Proposals are evaluated jointly by the Corporate Partner who is co-sponsoring the Research Opportunity, staff and WCAI faculty co-directors Eric Bradlow and Raghu Iyengar, and one or two reviewers from external institutions. The specific evaluation committee for each proposal will be included in the Research Opportunity announcement and webinar.

Will the data be made available to multiple teams or is it just being given to one?

For each Research Opportunity, data is generally awarded to 6-10 research teams. During the proposal review process, we carefully consider the potential overlap between projects and will only award the data to teams whose research will not collide later on in the process. For example, we might choose one proposal that represents the most promising “standard” approach and then several riskier, more novel approaches. We also strongly consider whether the teams are likely to target different publication outlets. Our goal is to avoid situations where two teams with similar research would be competing for publication.