Google’s attempts to distance itself from accusations that it’s destroying journalism saw it announce a new sponsorship of a contest to “help stimulate innovation in digital reporting” last November.

Organized by the Global Editors Network (GEN), the GEN Data Journalism Awards celebrate some of the best examples of data journalism from both established news organisations and newcomers.

In a blog post today, William Echikson, External Relations at Google, announced that the competition is now open for submissions, with six prizes worth €45,000 (EUR) up for grabs.

The fact that Google is aligning itself with this data journalism award is certainly a proactive PR move on the company’s part, but it will likely do little to stave off accusations that the search giant has eroded the revenues of major media companies, even though all it really does is aggregate content. That’s an argument for another day though.

“Journalism is going through an exciting — if sometimes wrenching — transition from off to online,” said Echikson. “Google is keen to help. We see exciting possibilities of leveraging data to produce award-winning journalism.”

Data journalism is where reporters use numerical data and databases to collate, arrange and publish news. “We are convinced that there is a bright future for journalism,” said Bertrand Pecquerie, GEN’s CEO. “This is not just about developing new hardware like tablets. It is above all about producing exciting new content.”

The contest is being run by the European Journalism Centre, a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands which has been running data training workshops for a number of years.

Projects should be submitted here by April 10, 2012, and entries should have been published or aired between April 11, 2011 and April 10, 2012. Winners will be announced at the Global News Network’s World Summit in Paris on May 31, 2011.