NSF gives up to $15M for ‘big data brain trust’

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The National Science Foundation awarded $5 million in seed money Monday to establish a series of regional “brain trusts” to promote big data innovation across the country.

The money will go to start four regional big data hubs in the U.S. linking stakeholders from all 50 states spanning the science and research communities, academia, private industry, and government. These “big data brain trusts,” as NSF calls them, will support regional efforts to hone and collect big data and create a framework for collaboration around specific use cases, like public safety, transportation, health, smart cities and energy.

“This program represents a unique approach to improving the impact of data science by establishing partnerships among like-minded stakeholders,” said Jim Kurose, NSF’s assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, the office funding the hubs program. “In doing so, it enables teams of data science researchers to come together with domain experts, with cities and municipalities, and with anchor institutions to establish and grow collaborations that will accelerate progress in a wide range of science and education domains with the potential for great societal benefit.”

The hubs will be strategically located in four different regions to support collaboration of nearby entities. NSF announced hubs at Columbia University (Northeast Hub), Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina (South Hub), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Midwest Hub), and the University of California, San Diego, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington (West Hub).

In addition to coordinating and sharing ideas, and bringing top talent to address the growing challenges related to big data, the hubs will also target specific areas, like precision medicine, precision agriculture, connected communities, emerging technologies and finance, and transition them from research to practice.

NSF will also award up to $10 million to what it calls big data spokes, collaborative groups that will extend the work of the hubs by focusing on specific projects of interest in the different regions. Specifically, NSF said in its proposal, these spokes will focus on three broad themes: “Accelerating progress towards addressing societal grand challenges relevant to regional and national priority areas; helping automate the Big Data lifecycle; and enabling access to and increasing use of important and valuable available data assets, also including international data sets, where relevant.”

“The BD Spokes aim to advance the goals and regional priorities of each BD Hub, fusing the strengths of the individual institutions and investigators and applying them to problems that affect communities, populations and groups within the region,” Kurose said.

NSF will convene the first meeting of national stakeholders involved in the big data hubs this week in Arlington, Va. At the meeting, Nov. 3-5, representatives of the hubs and other stakeholders will discuss governance and sustainability models, and next steps.

Contact the reporter who wrote this story at Billy.Mitchell@FedScoop.com, or follow him on Twitter at @BillyMitchell89.

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Agencies, big data, data analytics, National Science Foundation, Tech