2 Nov 2015 New York - Columbia University will lead a $1.25 million project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to share data, tools and ideas for tackling some of the big challenges facing the northeastern United States. As lead agency for the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub, one of four NSF-sponsored hubs, Columbia will bring together experts in the public and private sector to collaborate on data-driven solutions to problems in health care, energy, finance, urbanization, natural science and education.
Massive datasets and novel computational techniques are changing how individuals and societies approach day-to-day tasks. Data analytics promise to deliver individually tailored treatment to patients, massively reduce energy use in buildings, and radically improve teaching methods in schools, among other advances.
With 40 universities, and partners in industry, government and the non-profit sector, Columbia will identify high-priority needs in the region. A series of workshops over the next three years will give partners a chance to brainstorm and collaborate on projects that can bring about the greatest impact.
A few of the questions the Northeast Hub will address:
The Northeast is home to some of the oldest and most diverse cities in the United States, and many of the nation's top universities, hospitals and banks. "It's an ideal laboratory for testing the potential for data science to improve lives", stated Northeast Hub principal investigator Kathleen McKeown, a computer scientist at Columbia Engineering and director of the Data Science Institute. "The Northeast Hub will focus on extracting insights from large amounts of data that can bring about tangible results."
The idea for a Big Data hub network came in 2012, after President Obama announced a $200 million National Big Data Research & Development Initiative to apply data analytics to education, environmental and biomedical research, and national security. NSF, one of six federal agencies involved, proposed an add-on initiative that would divide the country into "regional innovation hubs", each harnessing experts in academia, industry, government, and the non-profit sector, to address problems too big for any one to take on alone.
Planning sessions were held earlier this year in four regions. On November 2, NSF announced leaders for the hubs - Columbia for the Northeast; Georgia Tech and North Carolina State University for the South; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for the Midwest; and the San Diego Supercomputer Center, University of California, San Diego, and University of Washington for the West.
The Northeast Hub includes all six New England states - Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut - as well as New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. General Electric, Microsoft and Ericsson are among 20 industry partners; NYC's Office of Data Analytics, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Regional Plan Association are among 20 government and non-profit partners.
The Northeast Hub will have six areas of focus:
The Northeast Hub will address four overarching themes:
The Northeast Hub's executive committee will be led by Kathleen McKeown, the PI, Howard Wactlar, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon; Carla Brodley, a computer scientist at Northeastern University; Vasant Honavar, a computer scientist at Penn State; and Andrew McCallum, a computer scientist at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A full list of partners is available on the Northeast Hub website.
The Hub will hold its first workshop on December 16 at Columbia. Speakers will include counter-terrorism expert Michael Leiter, chief strategy officer at Leidos, a top U.S. defense contractor; and Keith Marzullo, director of the Federal Networking and Information Technology Research & Development programme. An industry session will feature discussion of corporate data analytics and how companies in the Northeast might benefit from the Hub. A breakout session organized by leaders of the above sub-groups will focus on data available for sharing and plans for the coming year.