Professor Simon Maskell, from the School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science, is currently defining the University of Liverpool’s Big Data offering
“It was announced yesterday that the Government is going to support a new centre for Big Data. Big Data has previously been identified as one of the eight great technologies and this significant investment in UK academia will ensure that this hot topic can play its role in helping the UK to achieve economic success.
“It is perhaps surprising that while some of the other great eight technologies (eg Energy and its storage, advanced materials and nano-technology, robotics and autonomous systems) invoke images of tangible things, it seems to be difficult for members of the public to get hold of what Big Data really is.
“However, this inter-disciplinarity isn’t the only challenge faced by data scientists undertaking research in Big Data (eg me) when they try to explain (eg to my parents) what they actually do.
“In reality, much of what constitutes Big Data has been around for some time: it is not new to have large computing facilities (mainframes have been around since the 1950s); it is not new to have large datasets (the bible makes reference to a census which required Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem); it is not new to have software that can handle awkward datasets that don’t fit conventional databases (someone recently argued to me that Hadoop, the software that geeks like me realise is a key enabler for systems that use Big Data, has its roots firmly in the 1970s).
“What is new?
“The result is that data is moving from being perceived as an organisational cost, to one of their key assets. Managing and fully capitalising on that asset is now recognised as important.
“So, there is a growing need for data science (computer programs that enable the value to be extracted from data assets), data scientists (the people that use and develop those computer programs) and for an understanding of how Big Data will impact society (we each generate lots of data every day and don’t realise that, for example, when we get a free app, it typically means that we, or our data, is a product being sold to someone else for their commercial gain).
“Hopefully, the investment announced yesterday will play a key role in fostering this dynamic area in a way that helps UK academia to generate top-class data science, data scientists and an understanding of the broader issues involved. I think it will.”
Find out more about the University’s MSc in Big Data here