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MIT Establishes Research Center to Address the Opportunities and Challenges of Big Data

The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT announced on May 30, 2012 a major research initiative called bigdata@CSAIL to tackle the challenges of the “big data” -- data collections that are too big, growing too fast, or are too complex for existing information technology systems to handle.  According to the announcement, big data requires a “new generation of technologies to store, manage, analyze, share, and understand the huge quantities of data we are now capable of collecting.”

The initiative was announced at an MIT event attended by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who simultaneously announced a new statewide initiative to establish Massachusetts as a hub of big data research.  Also, the Intel Corporation announced that it is establishing the new Intel Science and Technology Center (ISTC) for Big Data at CSAIL. The company will contribute $2.5-million per year for up to five years to support the research center.  The lab plans to work with other companies, including AIG, EMC, SAP, and Thomson Reuters.

The bigdata@CSAIL initiative will bring together leaders from academia, industry, and government to develop sophisticated techniques for capturing, processing, analyzing, storing, and sharing big data, with the overall goal of making it more useful for society as a whole.  Experts in hardware and software development, theoretical computer science, and computer security will come together to develop new architectures capable of sorting and storing massive quantities of information, as well as the algorithms that can process them.  

Research will focus on key areas including finance, medicine, social media, and security (a description of the projects is available on the bigdata@CSAIL website).  In an interview, Sam Madden, an MIT Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who is leading the Big Data initiative, said that the researchers involved also hope to address privacy concerns raised by these massive data sets. “We need to look at what are the technical solutions to keeping data private and securing data, and then work with policy makers to help them develop policies to protect the privacy of data,” he said.  The newly launched bigdata@CSAIL website states:

“Our approach includes two key aspects.  First, we will collaborate closely with industry to provide real-world applications and drive impact. Second, we view the Big Data problem as fundamentally multi-disciplinary. Our team includes faculty and researchers across many related technology areas, including algorithms, architecture, data management, machine learning, privacy and security, user interfaces, and visualization, as well as domain experts in finance, medical, smart infrastructure, education and science.”

EDUCAUSE will continue to monitor and report on this emerging issue.

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