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UND a foundational member of Big Data Regional Innovation Hub

Posted on 11/5/2015

NSF funding drives a national brain trust for data science

By Juan Miguel Pedraza, University & Public Affairs writer

Big Data means Big Discovery for the University of North Dakota and the regional economy.

UND recently established the Midwest Big Data Hub (MBDH), in conjunction with a consortium of prestigious institutions, through funding provided by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) regional Big Data Innovation Hubs (BDHubs) program.

There are four BDHubs consortia - Northwest, Midwest, Southwest, and West.

"This puts UND on the forefront of this national effort," said Joshua Riedy, UND vice provost and chief strategy officer and co-PI on this NSF-funded Big Data initiative. "It started with an invitation-only gathering at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. After which, UND joined with the University of Illinois (the Midwest Region lead institution), the University of Michigan, the University of Indiana, and Iowa State University to form the core of the Midwest consortium - we're in great company."

Other regional partners include: the Red River Valley Research Corridor, Center for Comparative Effectiveness Analytics, Center for Regional Climate Studies, Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence, UND EPSCoR, and the Dakota Precision Ag Center - Lake Region State College.

Riedy explained that in order for higher education research and economic development to advance, "we need more than multi-disciplinary efforts - we need multi institution research and more private-public partnerships with access to enormous data sets and modern research tools, including both high performance/research computing and data collection/ingestion/storage utilities."

"The future of discovery means obtaining value-added information from repurposed, robust data sets," Riedy said. "Data no longer is a one-off, use-and-lose resource. Successful economies must capitalize on the notion that all data has a lasting value from which decision-making information can repeatedly be extracted."

Riedy said this is definitely part of an across-the-board collaborative effort.

"We've been engaged with our congressional delegation - U.S. Sens. John Hoeven, Heidi Heitkamp and U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer - in an ongoing dialog regarding the development of these resources, not only in Big Data and High Performance Computing (HPC), but cybersecurity programing, and UAS/UAV, as well," Riedy said.

"This can be viewed as part of what North Dakota University System (NDUS) Chancellor Mark Hagerott (himself a cybersecurity expert) is promoting as a technology nexus," Riedy said.

"The State Board of Higher Education last year endorsed the Collaborative Center for Computation and Data (CCCD), a key component of the concept," Riedy said. "This puts us in close alignment with the needs outlined at the national, regional and local levels."

An effort such as the CCCD will provide HPC delivering large-scale data analytics, and massive data management capabilities and expertise to foster the innovation and discovery mission of MBDH.

In North Dakota, the key people behind UND's participation in the Big Data Regional Innovation Hub program are Riedy; Aaron Bergstrom, NDUS Core Technology Services; and UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Mark Hoffmann.

About the NSF Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs project:

The ability to access, analyze and draw insights from massive amounts of data is already driving innovation in areas ranging from medicine to manufacturing, leading to greater efficiency and a higher quality of life.

According to NSF's big data hub website, this initiative makes the most of the fast-growing volume of digital data. The NSF project follows the Obama Administration's 2012 announcement of the "Big Data Research and Development Initiative." Beginning in the second year of the National Big Data Initiative, the Administration encouraged multiple stakeholders including federal agencies, private industry, academia, state and local government, non-profits and foundations, to develop and participate in Big Data innovation projects across the country.

To accelerate the Big Data field, NSF announced four awards totaling more than $5 million to establish regional hubs for data science innovation. The consortia are coordinated by top data scientists at Columbia University (Northeast Hub), Georgia Tech and the University of North Carolina (Southeast Hub), University of California - San Diego (Western Hub), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (MBDH).

Covering all 50 states, these hubs include commitments from 281 organizations - from universities including the University of North Dakota and cities to foundations and Fortune 500 corporations - with the ability to expand further over time.

NSF anticipates awarding $10 million in grants for the next phase of the BD Hubs, called the "Big Data Spokes" (BD Spokes), contingent upon the availability of funds. The BD Spokes program aims to help initiate regional collaborations in specific priority areas such as Digital Agriculture, Precision Medicine, Data Security, and Neuroscience.

Juan Miguel Pedraza, Writer/Editor
National Media Relations Coordinator
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