Big Data Renaissance in North Carolina

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In Chapel Hill, there are big doings in Big Data these days.

A new collaboration, known as the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS) has been launched at RENCI, (Renaissance Computing Institute) at the University of North Carolina.

The consortium has ambitious goals according to a recent RENCI press release, which states that NCDS “…aims to make North Carolina a national hub for data-intensive business and data science research and education, a move that will help develop a national strategy to ensure U.S. leadership in the data-driven global economy.”

NCDS founding members include industry leaders, top research universities, and nonprofit and government organizations.

Representing the private sector are Cisco, GE, IBM, NetApp and SAS. UNC Chapel Hill, RENCI, North Carolina State University, UNC Charlotte, UNC General Administration, Duke University and Drexel University comprise the founding academic members.  Nonprofit and government sector members are The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, MCNC, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, RTI International and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. All founding members have major facilities in North Carolina except Drexel, located in Philadelphia.

Those who harness the power of big data and use it to develop new data-intensive business sectors will be the winners in the 21st century economy,” said Stanley C. Ahalt, Ph.D., director of RENCI and a chief organizer of the NCDS, and professor of computer science at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Our members understand that, want to find solutions to big data problems and put North Carolina on the map as a center of data science innovation.”

The consortium is seeking to quickly consolidate its position as a major player in the evolving world of Big Data through a series of on-going initiatives.

For example, NCMS will be competing for federal research funding including the $200 million Big Data Research and Development Initiative announced by the White House last year, the National Science Foundation’s BigData program, and the National Institutes of Health’s Big Data to Knowledge initiative.

It will convene its first invitation-only NCDS Leadership Summit April 23-24 in Chapel Hill.  This year the summit will focus on genomics. Other initiatives include public lectures, an internship program for students at member companies, and visiting scientists’ positions at member universities for industry employees.

It is no longer enough for businesses to be big in order to be successful, now success is driven by the amount of knowledge a company possesses,” said David Turek, vice president, exascale computing, IBM. “Ninety percent of our planet’s data has been created within the past two years, and the demand will grow as businesses look to optimize big data analytics to improve decision making and expand their business operations into cloud, social and mobile environments.”

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