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UCL founding member of Alan Turing Institute for Data Science

28 January 2015
Statue of Turing at Bletchley Park. Image courtesy of Duane Wessels, Flickr

Statue of Turing at Bletchley Park. Image courtesy of Duane Wessels, Flickr

UCL will be one of five academic partners for the new Alan Turing Institute for Data Science. Based at the new King’s Cross Knowledge Quarter, the national Institute will draw together computer scientists, mathematicians, statisticians and more to work on this key driver for the economy.

Named after the World War Two codebreaker and mathematician, also the subject of a recent biopic, the Alan Turing Institute was proposed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) on behalf of the UK government. It will be housed in the British Library initially before moving to a purpose-built space nearby. The partners for the Institute are Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, Warwick and UCL, with collaborations with other higher education establishments and businesses planned.

The £67million centre will establish the UK as a key player in the handling of the vast amounts of data flooding into the information economy, from sources as diverse as vehicle movements, grocery shopping and Twitter posts. Announcing the venture, George Osbourne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

“The Institute will bring benefits to the whole country through partnerships with universities and businesses across Britain, including in our great northern cities, to better understand and exploit the amazing opportunities presented by big data.”

Big Data makes use of collections of data so large that even a powerful single computer cannot process them. Instead, they must be processed in pieces by groups of thousands of computers. Today businesses, as well as scientists, use it to find patterns in their interactions or to keep on top of all the data generated by the wired world. Big Data allows vendors to find out what customers want, researchers to measure issues with the health of whole populations, and public transport systems to keep cities moving.

With both researchers who generate theories from these mountains of information, and experimenters who test them, UCL brings an experimental attitude to data science to the Institute. A combination of computer science and statistics with pure and applied mathematics will be applied to the full breadth of research scholarship. Existing expertise in applications from digital humanities to environmental risk will ensure that big data findings are translated into improvements in quality of life

Anthony Finkelstein, Dean of Engineering and Professor of Software Science at UCL said:

“UCL is delighted to contribute to the newest addition to the Knowledge Quarter and our community, both locally and as global citizens. We give our knowledge and resources to help understand and learn from an increasingly digital world. This is a crucial part of our mission: to change the world.”

John Shawe-Taylor, head of UCL Computer Science, rated first among UK Computer Science departments in the recent Research Excellent Framework evaluation, said:
‘we are very proud to be part of this exciting and ground breaking venture. We bring a range of expertise to the institute as well as experience with translating research findings into societal impact.’

Sofia Olhede, scientific director of the UCL Big Data Institute and Centre for Data Science, said:

‘We are absolutely delighted to play a leading role in the start-up of the Alan Turing Institute. Data science is integral to UCL’s vision and strategy. The launch of the ATI and its placement in the new Knowledge Quarter will further reinforce Bloomsbury as a focus of national and international activities in this exciting field.’

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive said:

The Alan Turing Institute will draw on the best of the best academic talent in the country. It will use the power of mathematics, statistics, and computer science to analyze Big Data in many ways, including the ability to improve online security. Big Data is going to play a central role in how we run our industries, businesses and services. Economies that invest in research are more likely to be strong and resilient; the Alan Turing Institute will help us be both.”

The King’s Cross Knowledge Quarter, announced on the 4th of December, includes the British Library, the Francis Crick Institute for medical research (where UCL is also a partner), UCL, the Wellcome Trust and other partner organisations based around the developing area. It draws together a critical mass in the Euston, King’s Cross and Bloomsbury area, enabling collaborations that are bigger than the sum of their parts. For instance, big data studies on factors making a certain cancer more likely could feed into research at the Crick in understanding how to prevent it

 

 

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