LinkedIn has become the latest social network to solicit ideas from researchers to explore the company’s data.

Under the rules of the new LinkedIn Economic Graph Challenge, announced in a blog post today, researchers will submit proposals for analyzing LinkedIn’s vast pool of data on companies, geographies, education, and other characteristics of people’s work lives.

But it’s not just about using the data; this initiative is being described as an effort to solve difficult societal problems around.

“We are launching the LinkedIn Economic Graph Challenge to encourage researchers, academics, and data-driven thinkers to propose how they would use data from LinkedIn to solve some of the most challenging economic problems of our times,” Deepak Agarwal, senior director of engineering at LinkedIn, wrote in the blog post.

That angle sets it apart from the “data grants” that Twitter announced in February. Facebook has also engaged with researchers in the past to study data on its social network.

LinkedIn is sweetening its deal by offering a $25,000 “research award” to the three winning people or groups, as well as paying for two trips to LinkedIn’s Mountain View, Calif., campus to present their work. Oh, and the winners could also have a shot at actually carrying out the plans they think up and publishing their work for the world to see.

People must live in the U.S. to qualify for the competition, which begins today and ends on Dec. 15. LinkedIn will select the winners early next year, according to a FAQ about the challenge.


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