When we launched the Big Data Innovation Hubs at the end of 2015, we could never have imagined that our mission of “breaking barriers, bridging solutions, and accelerating partnerships,” intense but rewarding work, would yield over 800 members—many of whom actively contribute to Hub communities of practice, dozens of productive partnerships, several funded new projects, and nearly 20 workshops. A year and a half later, on Friday, June 9, 2017, more than 75 people from across sectors and disciplines—academia, government, nonprofits, and industry—met at the Microsoft Chevy Chase Pavilion near Washington, DC, to assess the progress of the South Big Data Hub, and shape its future. It was a day of catching up on current efforts (some of which began at the first all-hands hub meeting), and sparking new collaborations.
The Big Data Innovation Hubs, launched by the National Science Foundation in collaboration with our host universities, are a national network of four research coordination networks, tasked with building and strengthening public-private partnerships across industry, academia, nonprofits and government to apply data science research and innovation to address societal challenges, spur economic development, and foster a national big data ecosystem. The Hubs are less about funding new research, and more about applying people and resources to breathe life into ideas and data science methods that blow away existing roadblocks to innovation. The Hubs might join domain experts with data scientists to access and unify new and rich previously isolated datasets to better understand early symptoms of a disease. They make the best use of limited resources to expand data science education using existing open data sources, and work to make closed data accessible. The Hubs are listeners, matchmakers, strategists, catalysts, organizers, resource seekers, and disseminators of information. A number of Hub-associated programs, communities, and partnerships have been created, and the co-executive directors welcome new involvement across disciplines and career levels.
The recent 2017 South Hub All-Hands meeting allowed several Hub stakeholders, members, partners, and funded projects, called “spokes,” to convene and report on progress and upcoming activities. It also was a forum for members to connect with colleagues across disciplines to form collaborations as new hopefuls for the next round of “spokes” funding.
The day began with opening remarks from South Hub PIs Drs. Stan Ahalt and Srinivas Alaru, and with a State of the Hub update by the Co-Executive Directors Drs. Lea Shanley and Renata Rawlings Goss, giving a glimpse of Hub goals and activities at local and national levels. Covering all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Hubs have an impressive number of partnerships, with commitments from more than 250 organizations comprising universities and cities to foundations and Fortune 500 corporations. The South Hub has events and programs such as the National Transportation Data Challenge, the DataStart program that places students in startups, and the Program to Empower Partnerships with Industry (PEPI). The co-executive directors also grow ideas and place volunteers into expanding networks of domain scientists in the form of monthly Data Science Roundtables, and data-focused working groups such as the VITAL series. In fewer than two years, the South Hub has run nearly 20 workshops dedicated to exploring topics in data science connected to priority subject areas. The other big goals are developing data science capacity through education, training, and workforce development, and mapping data science assets like infrastructure and other resources that researchers can tap into.
Also in attendance were Chaitan Baru and Fen Zhao of the National Science Foundation, who offered a preview of data science-related priorities and research across several NSF directorates, as well as guidelines for the upcoming solicitation to fund a second round of new hub projects called “Spokes.” Baru also discussed the idea of creating a Data Corps, which would operate at local, state, national, and international levels to release the power of data and data science in the service of science and society.
Representatives of existing spokes projects delivered lightning talks on the following projects connected to the South Hub:
- Jennifer Hammock, on “Using Big Data for Environmental Sustainability: Big Data + AI Technology = Accessible, Usable, Useful Knowledge”
Principal Investigator: Ashok K. Goel, professor of computer science and cognitive science, Georgia Institute of Technology
Co PI: Jennifer Hammock, Smithsonian Institute, in partnership with IBM Watson
- Dilma Da Silva, on “Smart Grids Big Data”
Principal Investigator: Mladen Kezunovic, Eugene E. Webb Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas A & M University
Co-PIs: Santiago C. Grijalva, Georgia Institute of Technology; Zoran Obradovic, Temple UniversitySenior personnel present: Dilma Da Silva, dept. head, professor of computer science and engineering, Texas A&M
- Indranil Bardhan, on “Large Scale Medical Informatics for Patient Care Coordination and Engagement”
Principal Investigator: Gari Clifford, interim chair, biomedical informatics, Emory University
Co-PIs: Christopher Rozell, Georgia Tech; Herman Taylor, Morehouse School of Medicine; Indranil Bardhan, University of Texas at Dallas; Donald Adjeroh, West Virginia University; Ahmed Abbasi, University of Virginia; Nitin Agarwal, University of Arkansas
- Bruce Cairns, on “The Rare Disease Observatory”
PI: Rada Chircova, North Carolina State UniversityCo-PI: Bruce Cairns, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The presentations segment of the day concluded with talks examining effective data science collaborations. Adam Prosise, a Research Analyst with the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee, discussed the ability to be more data-driven when it comes to business development using Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning. Vani Mandava, the Director of Data Science Outreach at Microsoft Research addressed data science collaborations in the cloud (see related posts one, two and three). She also called for applications for Microsoft Azure Cloud Computing Credits Award, which awards cloud credits to researchers partnering with the Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs to support data-intensive research projects. To apply, visit this page.
A panel of speakers next discussed challenges in setting up data science collaborations, what to look for in searching out partners, and what they specifically were seeking now for collaborations. The panel comprised:
- Sokwoo Rhee, Associate Director of Cyber-Physical Systems Program, National Institute of Standards & Technology
- Leonard Fishman, Director of Business Development, data.world
- Daniel Morgan, Chief Data Officer, US Department of Transportation
- Anthony Burn, Director, Community Engagement, Radiant
- Michelle Schwalbe, Director of the Board on Mathematical Sciences and their Applications, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (Moderator)
The day concluded with breakout sessions on the topics of cities, economics and policies, education, energy, environment, health, materials and manufacturing. The sessions are a critical means of jumpstarting collaborations leading to funded projects in the next upcoming spokes solicitation.
To become a hub member, or to view resources associated with this meeting, please visit southbdhub.org, or contact the co-executive directors at email@example.com.
Funding for this event was provided by the National Science Foundation, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech. The meeting was planned by several members of the South Hub Team including Dr. Lea Shanley, Dr. Stan Ahalt, Sarah Davis, and Karl Gustafson in collaboration with facilitator Stephanie Brown of 10XCollective.