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UMD to Partner in Effort to Build Big Data Solutions for Regional Challenges

November 2, 2015

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Insights derived from the analysis of massive amounts of data are already driving innovation in a host of areas including healthcare, manufacturing, internet services, finance and transportation. The University of Maryland will participate in a new effort to develop a Big Data Regional Innovation Hub serving Maryland, 15 other southern states and the District of Columbia. 

The South Big Data Regional Innovation Hub (South BD Hub) is one of four Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs for which the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced awards totaling more than $5 million ($1.25 million for the South BD Hub).  Building upon the National Big Data Research and Development Initiative launched in 2012, this new NSF initiative aims to create regional hubs that will catalyze innovative public-private partnerships to address regional & national challenges through big data analysis. 

“The new economy is a big data economy and big data analysis also is critical for addressing many issues facing local and state governments and federal agencies,” said UMD Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor Joseph JaJa, who is a member of the South Big Data Hub steering committee that will shape the vision, goals and scope of the new hub during its initial bootstrap phase. 

“Through the South BD Hub, UMD plans to develop new collaborative efforts and build on our extensive, existing partnerships with federal government agencies and the private sector. UMD has considerable expertise in a broad range of data science research areas, and is uniquely positioned in high-speed regional and national connectivity infrastructure through the UMD-run Mid-Atlantic Crossroads (MAX), which deploys leading edge networking to  regional and national academic, government, and scientific communities,” said JaJa, who also is a professor in, and a former director of, the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies.

According to an NSF news release, the agency anticipates that in the next phase for the Big Data Hubs it will award $10 million in grants to help initiate research  partnerships in specific priority areas identified by the four regional Big Data Hubs. These priority research areas are called “Big Data Spokes.” 

JaJa said the Big Data Spokes for the South Big Data Hub are a great fit for UMD expertise and present unique opportunities to forge new partnerships across the region.  The South Big Data Hub has identified the following research areas as possible Big Data Spokes: 

  • Health Care - disparities, care and outcomes; precision medicine; genomics
  • Coastal Hazards - understanding and mitigating natural and manmade disasters.
  • Industrial Big Data - cyber-physical systems; Internet of Things; data-driven management of infrastructure such as utilities. 
  • Materials and Manufacturing - bridging the gap between materials science and manufacturing practice.
  • Habitat Planning - smart cities, transportation, rural-urban infrastructure, and wildlife habitats. 

“The BD Hubs program represents a unique approach to improving the impact of data science by establishing partnerships among likeminded stakeholders,” said Jim Kurose, NSF’s head of Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “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.” 

According to NSF, anticipated benefits of the Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs program include: establishing collaboration frameworks and reducing coordination costs to make it easier to initiate partnerships; creating new opportunities for sharing ideas, resources, and best practices; and bringing to bear top talent to address regional issues. 

“Through UMD’s participation in the South Big Data Hub, we want to team up with government agencies, research centers and the private sector companies who have big data problems,” said JaJa. “Our role would be to provide technical expertise, develop novel tools and methodologies for data analysis and exploration, and for generating predictive models based on this data. Working together we will be able to identify patterns and structures in this data that are new and that wouldn't have been found without such partnerships, while simultaneously training the next generation of data scientists by immersing them  on more of our region’s and nation’s biggest data issues,” he said.  

The South Big Data Hub will serve the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. It will be developed in three phases: an initial bootstrap phase that will establish the basic governance structure; a transitional phase that will move toward an operational structure; and a final operational phase.  Georgia Tech and the University of North Carolina are the lead institutions for this hub. The Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University join UMD as participating universities in the Baltimore – Washington, D.C. region.