U.Va. to Hold 'Big Data Summit' May 9

May 2, 2012 — The growing deluge of "big data" presents tremendous opportunities for discovery, systems improvement and decision-making in applied research. Innovative methods of storing, manipulating, analyzing and visualizing large complex data can generate breakthrough insights, from human behavior to addressing global challenges. And while science has been the innovation engine in recent decades, new kinds of data analysis could drive the next wave of breakthroughs.

The big challenge is creating a plan for addressing the barriers in handling and mining all that big data.

The University of Virginia Alliance for Computational Science & Engineering, or UVACSE, and the Office of the Vice President for Research are sponsoring a half-day summit designed to bring together the U.Va. research community and establish new cross-Grounds networks and collaborations over the opportunities of big data. The "U.Va. Big Data Summit" will be held on May 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Rice Hall Information Technology Engineering Building.

Attendance is free, but online registration is required.

The "Wired Campus" blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported that "big data" was a key theme at this year's South by Southwest Interactive festival, where a panel on education focused on the promise of data to better detect and connect with students who might be struggling academically.

"Our future will be informed and improved by integration and sense-making in multiple fields of human endeavor, based on the analysis of massive amounts of digital information," Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research, said. "Whether probing the depths of the oceans or the universe, designing new therapeutic drugs, or understanding social networks, modern organizations will benefit from improved understanding of complex systems behavior. U.Va. can be a model for delivering beneficial societal and economic impact from the study of big data systems."

President Teresa A. Sullivan, a sociologist, will greet the attendees via video – a sign of the importance of "big data" in the social sciences, said John Simon, executive vice president and provost, "It is very important that this be broader than a science/biomedical science discussion," he said.

Skalak and Simon will introduce the summit, and three sessions will follow:

• Applications that are producing the data
• Infrastructure needed to manage the data
• Algorithms and analytic techniques to gain insight from the data

Each session will consist of short presentations followed by a panel discussion. A second discussion phase will be conducted over lunch.

Simon said the summit demonstrates U.Va.'s continuing evolution as a leader in higher education and research. "Our community seeks to be distinctive in how we address the frontier areas of knowledge," he said. "This summit provides an opportunity for our faculty and students to help shape the direction of that frontier."