UCSD Will Co-Lead Data Innovation Center

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UCSD, UC Berkeley and University of Washington will collaboratively lead the western sector of the National Science Foundation’s four Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs. NSF stated in its Nov. 2 announcement that the hubs together will form a “big data brain trust” that works to address problems across the region.

The priorities of the BD Hubs include developing technology for data-driven discovery and managing natural resources. This program, which NSF will grant a total of more than $5 million, will also focus on the fields of agriculture, education, medicine, energy, manufacturing and finance. 

The BD Hubs aims to train the next generation of data science experts while  serving as sites where scholars can put their research into practice. 

The West BD Hub’s Executive Director Meredith Lee described how the program will bring experts from different fields together to develop innovative solutions to society’s most pressing challenges.

“The Big Data Innovation Hubs seek to connect a diverse network of innovators who may not otherwise have an opportunity to work together — academics, industry experts, nonprofits, government at all levels, volunteers and data enthusiasts,” Lee told the UCSD Guardian. “Building these coalitions with a focus on how we can address national priority challenges has an incredible potential for societal impact.”

Lee also explained that, the Western United States’s unique history of innovation positions, the hub located on the west coast is expected to be a significant contributor to the project.

“The west has a track record for entrepreneurialism and clear strengths in technology development,” Lee said. “We also are the home to vital metropolitan areas, unique natural resources and hazards, and very exciting interdisciplinary data science projects.  Our hub is looking forward to building upon existing efforts and leveraging the unique talents of our region.”

Furthermore, she explained that UCSD is the right institution to co-lead the western hub because of its reputation in the scientific community. 

“UCSD is a recognized leader in supercomputing, with expertise in data science education, research and tech transfer,” Lee said. 

In the next phase of the BD Hubs project, the NSF expects to award $10 million to establish the Big Data Spokes program which will initiate research in areas that the BD Hubs identified as priorities. According to NSF’s press release, the BD Spokes will aim to address three main issues: “improving access to data, automating the data lifecycle and applying data science techniques to solve domain science problems or demonstrate societal impact.”

Leaders and researchers from each hub attended the BD Hubs’ first national stakeholders meeting from Nov. 3 to Nov. 5 to present their administration and sustainability models, discuss ideas for BD Spokes and plan out the program’s future.